Minority Health Month 2018: Tackling Persistent Health Disparities

Dawn Godbolt, Stephanie Glover

April 23, 2018 | Health Care

In observance of Minority Health Month – and to call attention to the persistent health disparities women of color face all year – the National Partnership analyzed U.S. Census Bureau health insurance data in a five-part series. Each summarizes health insurance coverage for a specific population of women: Asian; American Indian and Alaska Native; Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander; Black women and Latinas.

Here are a few key findings:

  • Latinas and American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) women face the largest disparities in coverage: 20 percent of Latinas and 18 percent of AIAN women are uninsured, compared with eight percent of white women.
  • Due to racism, sexism and other systemic barriers that have contributed to income inequality, many women of color obtain insurance coverage through Medicaid, including 30 percent of AIAN women and roughly 25 percent of Black women and of Latinas.
  • For women of color, insurance coverage is lowest in the South, where most states did not expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
  • Women of color of reproductive age (15-44) have lower coverage rates than their older and younger peers. This is concerning, since women of reproductive age need access to preventive health care, such as birth control, to maintain their health and choose when and whether to become parents.

These findings reinforce the need for multiple policy strategies to address persistent disparities in insurance coverage. Here are three actions (among many) that federal and state policymakers could take immediately to support the health and economic security of millions of women of color by expanding health coverage:

  • Stop trying to sabotage the ACA. The ACA corrected longstanding, discriminatory gaps in access to insurance coverage for women of color by expanding Medicaid coverage, establishing marketplaces where consumers can shop for insurance and providing financial assistance to make coverage affordable. But the Trump administration and like-minded federal and state policymakers continue their relentless attacks on the ACA, including its guaranteed coverage for critical health care services. This guarantee is especially important for women of color, many of whom face high rates of preventable diseases and chronic health conditions. Our elected officials should be taking actions that protect and expand, not contract, our access to health care.
  • Expand Medicaid immediately. Because women of color live at the intersection of multiple disparities and structural barriers that lead to a higher likelihood of being Medicaid-eligible, widespread Medicaid expansion is another crucial lever for connecting more women of color with health insurance. Medicaid helps low-income women of color access essential preventive care, family planning, maternal health services, nursing home care and more.
  • End the Hyde Amendment. Given the fact that many women of color obtain health coverage through Medicaid, it is absolutely critical that Congress end the harmful Hyde Amendment, which denies women enrolled in Medicaid coverage for abortion care in most instances. Abortion care is health care, and all women should be able to get the care they need regardless of how much money they make.

At the National Partnership, we will continue working hand-in-hand with our partners to push for policies that will combat racism and other systemic barriers to health equity – not just during Minority Health Month, but day in and day out.

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