National Leaders in Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Health Hold Community Forum on Health Care Reform

September 16, 2009

[Archive] Stacy Lavilla
Director of Communications
(510) 272-9536 x110

OAKLAND, Calif. – More than 280 members of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities in the San Francisco Bay Area gathered this morning to voice their concerns regarding health care reform and what a public plan option will mean for themselves and their families. The community forum was hosted by the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians (NCAPIP) and Oakland community health center Asian Health Services (AHS).

Nationally, more than one in six Asian Americans are uninsured and more than one in four Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are uninsured. Dozens of the forum attendees shared their stories about the health care system including challenges they face everyday with insurance and wide-ranging health issues. One AHS patient poignantly illustrated the impact these challenges have on her family:

“My mother is 69 years old and is living with me. I sponsored her to come to the United States in 2007. She was healthy when she came here. A few months ago, she became very sick and had to use a wheelchair to move around,” said Ms. Phoung Le, an AHS patient. “I cannot afford to buy insurance for myself, so I cannot support her even though I know that taking care of her is my responsibility.”

Organizers of the event discussed the public plan option in health care reform, which many believe will provide a truly meaningful choice of plans for those who need coverage and give people a place to go when they can’t find or afford private insurance.

Said Sherry Hirota, CEO of AHS and a founding board member of AAPCHO: “A public plan option would not eliminate private insurance. It would give people who cannot afford private insurance an alternative. Simply put, if you like what you have, you can keep it. If you don’t, or if your employer doesn’t offer a plan, you will still have options – including the proposed public plan”. “Capitalism thrives on competition. The more choices we have to choose from, the harder health care insurance providers will work to serve their customers. A high-quality, affordable public plan will lower health care costs because private insurers would have to compete with each other and with the public plan, driving down the cost to consumers.”

Community health leaders also pointed to current health care proposals that problematically include a five-year waiting period for legal immigrants, and explained that letting legal immigrants pay into the health care system and have access will actually save money for our health care system and will help bring down costs for everyone in the long term. Eliminating the mandated five-year waiting period for the federal Medicaid program would allow legal immigrants to access cost-saving preventive care, in many cases eliminating costly emergency room treatment for health problems that have become too severe to ignore.

As the discussion progressed, translated petitions calling for a public option and elimination of a waiting period of legal immigrants in health care reform addressed to Senators Boxer and Feinstein were circulated for people to sign if they wished to participate in this effort.

“Poor access to health care leads to bad health, and both lead to higher costs for our entire country. Five years is too long to wait for legal immigrant women to receive routine preventive and prenatal care,” said Ho Luong Tran, president and CEO of APIAHF. “We must provide children and adults with access to essential, preventive care that keeps people healthy. Our health care system should treat everyone fairly by letting those who want insurance to buy it at a reasonable cost and allowing all those who are poor have access to Medicaid.”

APIAHF influences policy, mobilizes communities, and strengthens programs and organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
AHS serves and advocates for the Asian and Pacific Islander community by ensuring access to health care services regardless of income, insurance status, immigration status, language, or culture.

AAPCHO is a national association representing community health organizations dedicated to promoting advocacy, collaboration and leadership that improves the health status and access of Asian Americans & Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders within the United States, its territories, and freely associated states, primarily through our member community health centers.

NCAPIP advocates for public and private funding for initiatives and programs to improve access to, and the quality of, linguistically and culturally competent health care services and for increased and improved AA and NHPI focused research and data collection and dissemination. NCAPIP fosters professional development for AA and NHPI health professionals to enhance representation at leadership and governmental levels of health care policy and service delivery systems.

Media Relations

Beverly Quintana
(510) 272-9536 x112

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