Many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) work hard to care for their families but are unable to get health insurance to help care for themselves. For them, and for all of us, as we reflect on the passage of the Affordable Care Act three years ago this week, we see it as the most significant event in the last 40 years with respect to our health, already making a difference in AAPI communities. And how the Affordable Care Act will be implemented in the next coming months will have a dramatic impact on AAPI communities all across the United States.
Even though health insurance is one of the most important determinants of health for AAPIs, nearly 1 in 5 AAPIs is uninsured. The Affordable Care Act will make approximately 2 million AAPIs who would otherwise be uninsured eligible for health insurance coverage by 2016. The Affordable Care Act ensures that hard-working AAPI families will get the security they deserve. It already is holding insurance companies accountable, bringing down costs across the system, and helping more families get the peace of mind of affordable health insurance. And, starting next year, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions or charging women more just because they are women.
In addition to increasing health insurance coverage for AAPIs, the Affordable Care Act ensures that preventive services, including flu shots, mammograms, hepatitis B screenings for pregnant women, and recommended cancer screenings are covered without cost-sharing – such as copays or deductibles. The implementation this provision has already expanded coverage for at least one preventive service to 3.8 million AAPIs who have private health insurace. This will help address the fact that cancer screenings and prevention are particularly important for AAPIs, who are the least likely among all racial groups to receive routine mammograms and pap smears.
Also, as our economy continues to recover, the Affordable Care Act helps small businesses offer coverage to their employees through tax credits, making it affordable for the many AAPIs who either own or work for small businesses.
And expanded health insurance coverage is only the beginning of a better health care system for AAPIs under the Affordable Care Act. The health care law has helped 6.3 million Medicare beneficiaries save $6.1 billion on their prescription drugs. Last year, Medicare beneficiaries who received a discount saved an average of $706.
Many AAPIs get care from community health centers, which have received increased funding to provide culturally competent care. New models of care delivery and payment supported by the Affordable Care Act will also reduce health care costs while improving quality of care. Combined with the Recovery Act’s investment in electronic health record (EHR) systems, the Affordable Care Act supports better quality of care for all Americans, including AAPIs. The Affordable Care Act has also expanded research and data collection on health for different AAPI groups through improved data collection, which will provide more accurate information for patients, providers, and policy makers to ensure better health for AAPI communities.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, AAPIs will be able to get affordable, high-quality health care, treat and control their health conditions, and continue to take care of their families. As the Affordable Care Act continues to be implemented and enrollment begins on October 1, 2013, we all need to work together to ensure that AAPIs seeking affordable coverage enter the Health Insurance Marketplace. This lifesaving law will help AAPIs stay healthy so that they can take care of their families and be productive members of this great country. I invite you to click here for more information (including in-language material) about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and how to get updates on enrolling for health care coverage.
Dr. Tung Nguyen is a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and serves on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.