Making Progress to Close the Gaps in AAPI Health Care
By Dr. Howard K. Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health
Each May during Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we celebrate the remarkable contributions and accomplishments of the AAPI community to the fabric of our nation. As a Korean American son of immigrants, I am all too familiar with the barriers AAPIs face in accessing health care for reasons such as poverty, lack of insurance, language barriers and other challenges.
But, as the Assistant Secretary for Health, I am particularly pleased to see the progress we have made in closing the gaps in AAPI health care, and am honored to oversee efforts that can address the ongoing health disparities that continue to exist within our vibrant community.
The good news is that the President’s health care law -- the Affordable Care Act – provides us with the opportunity to increase access to care, and vastly improve health outcomes for AAPIs. According to an HHS Research Brief released today, an estimated two million AAPIs will be eligible for insurance coverage by 2016 under the new health care law.
Already, the Affordable Care Act has expanded access to free preventive services. The law requires insurers to cover preventive care so families do not have to pay out-of-pocket costs for services such as well-child visits, flu shots or blood pressure screenings. In 2011, private insurers improved coverage for mammograms, other cancer screenings, and other preventive services to 2.7 million AAPIs. And, to date, 867,000 elderly and disabled AAPIs with Medicare have used free preventive services, including an annual wellness visit with their doctor.
As the law continues to be implemented, uninsured AAPIs will gain access to affordable health care insurance through new Affordable Insurance Exchanges or expanded Medicaid coverage. And AAPIs suffering from chronic diseases, including an estimated 891,000 with diabetes, will have access to promising new health care innovations to improve the management of these conditions.
Today, as we kick off Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, let us celebrate the critical progress we are making toward achieving our collective goal of reducing – and eventually eliminating – health care disparities. We are all committed to improving the health and well-being of all Americans, including our family and friends in the AAPI community.