Debate Exposed Gap between Candidates' Health Plans for Ethnic Communities

Judith A. Stein and Joe Baker | 10/10/2012, 2:54 p.m.

Under the Romney-Ryan plan, ethnic individuals without coverage would lose access to benefits, and those reliant on Medicaid would suffer as a result of funding cuts.

In addition to loss of coverage, the Romney-Ryan system would cost people in ethnic communities would lose important benefits now afforded by ACA.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found, "People of color experience higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma, and have higher death rates from heart disease than whites."

ACA extends proven preventive benefits to people with all kinds of insurance, including Medicare, Medicaid and private plans. These improvements aim to help reduce rates of diabetes, HIV/AIDS, obesity and other chronic conditions disproportionately experienced in ethnic communities.

ACA also includes programs with great promise to improve care, such as demonstration pilot projects that are test models of care for those with chronic diseases. The projects are testing ideas like "health homes" to coordinate care for lower-income residents now often shuffled from one site to another for treatment.

The health care reform law also includes better data collection that can help close health care disparities, for example, between white and ethnic or racial populations.

We are grateful for the opportunity this year's election cycle has provided to ponder the future of Medicare and Medicaid. Yet, we are disappointed by the persistent neglect in the national dialogue to the beneficiaries who will be most affected by the changes proposed under the Romney-Ryan plan.

People in ethnic communities, many of whom rely on low incomes and live with chronic, debilitating illnesses, must not be forgotten in Medicare debates. The very health - and ultimately the lives - of these communities are at stake.

Judith A. Stein is executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy Inc., a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Willimantic and Washington, D.C.. Joe Baker is president of the Medicare Rights Center in New York.

Source: New America Media