Disability, Disparities and the Health Care Law
By Henry Claypool, Senior Advisor to HHS Secretary on Disability Policy
As we commemorate National Minority Health Month, we can take the opportunity to not only highlight the health disparities experienced by racial and ethnic minorities and our progress toward health equity, but also the health disparities facing persons with disabilities. For they, too, encounter considerable barriers to getting quality health care.
In fact, according to a report from last summer, “by every measure, persons with disabilities disproportionately and inequitably experience morbidity and mortality associated with unmet health care needs in every sphere. Minorities with disabilities are doubly burdened by their minority status.” Access to providers, inadequate training and cultural competency among providers, and limited data and research in disability disparities are just some of the challenges they face.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, that’s changing.
It’s helping people like Sonia from Baltimore. Because of serious injuries from a car accident, Sonia feared she would have to spend the rest of her life in a nursing home, denied the ability to raise her young children and provide for her family. Instead, thanks to the law’s Money Follows the Person program, Sonia has been able to get help with home modifications and long-term attendant care from someone she trusts – critical help she needs to live at home. Now, she can support her family, play with her children, and be a part of her community.
Programs like these are so important, as is good research. Because of the law, HHS has developed new data collection standards on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status for population health surveys, helping us to better identify disparities and target programs to reduce these disparities. And we’re helping propose new standards for medical diagnostic equipment, including mammography machines and exam tables, which can be difficult to use, especially for people with mobility disabilities.
The law has also provided coverage to over 55,000 uninsured Americans with chronic conditions and disabilities who previously would have been unable to obtain affordable health insurance. Insurance companies can no longer exclude kids with pre-existing conditions like asthma or diabetes from getting coverage, and by 2014, adults cannot be excluded because of pre-existing conditions either. We will also ensure that Affordable Insurance Exchanges and Medicaid enrollment and eligibility systems are accessible to people with disabilities.
Much remains to be done to better define and address disparities on the basis of disability. HHS is determined to continue making strides in achieving increased health equity through this vital work.
To learn more about what the new health care law does to help address disparities for persons with disabilities, view an updated fact sheet here.