The summer after he graduated from college, Kalwis Lo learned he had stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the lymphatic system. His private health insurance plan denied him coverage for treatment, claiming the cancer diagnosis was a “pre-existing condition.” Every major private health plan turned him away. His family was forced to dip into their savings and ask friends and family for help to cover the cost of his testing and chemotherapy treatments. His family faced financial strain until Kalwis discovered that the Affordable Care Act created a temporary program for anyone denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. He enrolled in the program and that fall, Kalwis was able to get the treatment he needed and today is cancer-free.
Kalwis’s story is one of the reasons why President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. No one should be denied health insurance coverage when they need it most.
Unfortunately, many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) still lack health insurance coverage and don’t see a doctor on a regular basis. In fact, in 2010, nearly 24% of Asian Americans and over 37% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders reported that they had not seen a doctor in the past year. Through the Affordable Care Act, nearly 2 million uninsured AAPIs gained access to health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, and it is likely that eight in 10 will qualify for financial assistance!
So today, I encourage all Americans -- including AAPIs across the country -- who have not enrolled for health insurance to learn more, get engaged, and enroll in health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace by February 15.
To encourage AAPI families to get health coverage, throughout the week of January 26-30, the White House, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are partnering with community groups to hold enrollment events for AAPI families to learn about the Affordable Care Act and receive free, in-person, and in-language assistance to enroll in health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Partners also plan to be active on social media, using hashtag #AAPIhealth, to share information, resources, and stories of AAPIs who have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act.
For more information on the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596. Translation services are available. The call is free. And remember to enroll before February 15, 2015!
Tina Tchen is the Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff for the First Lady.