Advancing Health Equity through the Affordable Care Act

No individual, or group of people, should face discrimination, especially when it comes to something so fundamental as accessing health care. Yet for too long, this has been the case. However, with implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, not only did the law provide new opportunities to access quality, affordable health coverage, but it established new civil rights protections in health care.acasigned_new

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the much-anticipated “Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities” final rule, otherwise known as Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Section 1557 builds upon longstanding federal civil rights laws by barring discrimination based on race, color, national origin, age, disability, and sex in our health care system. It applies nondiscrimination protections to all health programs that receive federal funding. Health care plans sold through the federal health insurance marketplace are covered under this law, as are hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers. Programs like Medicaid and Medicare are all covered under this provision as well.

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The Latino Outlook is Positive but Improvement is Still Needed

By Delia Pompa, Senior Vice President, Programs, NCLR

ImmigrationRally_7_10_2013Latinos are well aware of discrimination and inequality yet we are optimistic about the future, a new poll shows. The State of the Latino Family Survey of 1,000 Latinos, ranging from new immigrants to long-time citizens and conducted by Univision, The Denver Post, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, shows that the Latino community is particularly hopeful about their economic prospects, their personal health, and the quality of public education.

What is striking about the survey is that the pollsters chose to include undocumented immigrants living in the United States, providing a fuller picture of the Latino community’s stance on a variety of issues. Nonetheless, while optimism is apparent throughout the survey, differences exist among demographic groups, highlighting the complexity of the Latino community. Some findings show that Latinos who are newer to the United States have a much more positive outlook than those who have lived in the country longer. This latter group was more prone to “express disappointment with persistent inequality and diminishing opportunities.”

The poll focused on the following areas: social progress, economics, education, health, and the Latino experience.

Social Progress

Latinos have seen progress in health care access, equal opportunity, and education. The optimism for these particular issues, however, is somewhat guarded, especially considering that those surveyed believe there is an uptick in violence and crime, affordable housing is scarce, and discrimination against Latinos and immigrants has not diminished. The difference in attitudes is most stark when generational and socioeconomic differences are considered. For example, 56 percent of fourth-generation Latinos believe that things are getting worse on the job front compared to 40 percent of new U.S. citizens.

LatinoFamilySurvey_chart1

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Economics

When asked about the economy and personal finances, an overwhelming 73 percent of respondents said they were optimistic about the future. Just 10 percent of those surveyed said they were not optimistic at all. The survey also showed that undocumented immigrants and the highest-income earners had the most positive outlook. Unfortunately, there is still progress to be made in ensuring that Latinas feel secure about the economy. A full 54 percent said they had no savings to draw from were they to fall on hard times, and just 61 percent said they could take on another job or more hours, compared to 73 percent of men who said the same.

Education

LatinoFamilySurvey_chart3Education is always one of the highest priorities for Latino parents, and respondents are confident about the instruction their children receive. According to the poll, 77 percent of Latinos with children said they believe that their schools are providing a quality education. An impressive 60 percent of Latino parents said they are actively engaged in their children’s education, whether it be attending parent-teacher conferences or volunteering at the school. Attendance at functions such as school board hearings, however, was weaker; the time commitment necessary for such events was often cited as a barrier, as were language and citizenship differences.

Health

The survey revealed that Latinos are also positive about their health outlook. In fact, 63 percent said they were in “good, very good, or excellent health.” Compare this to the 12 percent who rated their health as “poor.” Interestingly, while 75 percent said they have some kind of health insurance, 40 percent reported that they usually seek medical care outside of a doctor’s office. Twenty-five percent said they go to clinics or community health centers, while 16 percent said they go to hospitals or urgent care centers for medical attention.

The Latino Experience

Finally, on the Latino experience overall, the community is undeniably concerned about being the targets of discrimination in American society. Almost 70 percent said they are concerned about excessive force being doled out against them. Interestingly, more than 20 percent said they felt that Latinos are discriminated the most in Arizona, surely a result of the state’s notorious anti-immigrant atmosphere embodied by laws such as SB 1070.

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This is an important poll, to be sure, though we should keep in mind that while Latinos remain optimistic about their future, there is still much work to be done politically, legislatively, and programmatically to guarantee better opportunities. Harnessing the optimism of our diverse and complex community will help us break down the barriers to education and the workplace, helping more Latinos enjoy full participation in American life.

SB 1070 Taken Down Yet Another Notch

SCOTUS_picEarlier this week, the Supreme court dealt another blow to supporters of the infamous anti-immigrant SB 1070 law. The court declined to review a specific provision of SB 1070 that would have made it illegal to transport or harbor undocumented immigrants. That provision had already been blocked by the U.S. District court in Phoenix and an injunction was later upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Were it not for the tireless work of our Arizona Affiliates, this case might still be making its way through the courts. The case was led by our Affiliates in Arizona, with Valle del Sol listed as the lead plaintiff.

NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía, applauded the court’s decision in the statement below.

“The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold this injunction unequivocally affirms what we have known to be true since this law was passed in 2010: SB 1070 is an unconstitutional infringement on the civil rights of all Arizonans. This legislation is a reckless attempt to make racial profiling and discrimination the law of the land in Arizona, tarnishing the state’s reputation and needlessly costing millions of dollars to defend it in the courts. We applaud the efforts of our Affiliates in Arizona, including the lead plaintiff in this court case, Valle del Sol, and the supporting plaintiff, Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as our allies throughout the state. They have all tirelessly pushed back against this legislation in order to ensure that all Arizonans, especially Latinos, are treated by law enforcement fairly, with dignity and respect.”

Will Jan Brewer’s Veto Usher in a New Era for Arizona?

By Leticia de la Vara, Senior Strategist, NCLR Policy Analysis Center, Phoenix Office

Photo: George Takei Facebook page

Photo: George Takei Facebook page

This week, all eyes were on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) as yet another piece of hateful legislation sat on her desk awaiting her signature.  Yet rather than pandering to unsubstantiated fears—this time—Brewer made a choice that was right for all Arizonans by vetoing SB 1062.

SB 1062 would have allowed businesses to legally deny service to customers if their religious beliefs were burdened.  Although not explicitly stated, the bill was designed to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community.  As the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in this country, NCLR was appalled that this bill passed through the Arizona legislature.  An attack on the civil rights of the LGBT community is an attack on the civil rights of us all.

If this piece of legislation showed us anything, it’s that the Arizona legislature is completely out of touch with their constituents.  This revelation is not exactly news to NCLR, which recently fought to gut Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070, which would have legalized racial profiling.

Contrary to the image of Arizona that the legislature has created, the Arizonans I know celebrate diversity and would not support a piece of legislation that seeks to discriminate against one group of people.  As we saw over the past two weeks, Arizonans were not willing to stay quiet.  Businesses, community leaders, and everyday citizens across the state pushed back against the extremists championing this bill.

We were especially lucky to have the business community come out in strong opposition to SB 1062.  Both Major League Baseball and the National Football League issued statements against the bill, voicing their strong support for the rights and inclusion of the LGBT community, and more than 80 companies, trade organizations, and other business groups, including Apple, signed a letter encouraging Governor Brewer to veto SB 1062. I’m sure the economic backlash that resulted from SB 1070 was weighing heavily on her mind as she contemplated whether to sign this piece of legislation.

Still, what’s more important to remember is that protecting a person’s civil rights should never be a business decision. While the economic argument can be particularly persuasive for certain legislators, we have to move beyond putting a price tag on our citizens’ rights.  We should oppose laws such as SB 1070 and SB 1062 because they lead to discrimination and racial profiling, not because they cost us millions of dollars.  These bills run contrary to the very principles that this nation was founded upon.

Governor Brewer said it best:  “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value.  So is nondiscrimination.”

While we celebrate this victory, we must also recognize the priorities that the Arizona legislature has clearly laid out and the chance that more bills like this will pass through this state house and senate.  But we can win if the LGBT community, civil rights groups, and immigrants’ rights advocates stand together.  Rooting out discrimination remains a long and arduous task in many areas of this country, but together we can make sure that legalizing discrimination is damn near impossible.

ENDA Finally Passes in the Senate!


Today the Senate took the bold and long-overdue step to guarantee workplace protections for ALL workers, including LGBT Americans. With its 64-32 vote in favor of passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the U.S. Senate has sent the message that LGBT people must be protected from being losing their jobs simply for whom they love. We applaud the U.S. Senate on this vote and now implore the House of Representatives to follow suit and finally put an end to workplace discrimination.

The following is the statement NCLR released upon ENDA’s passage:

In a 64 to 32 vote, today the Senate passed S. 815, the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA),” a bill to help prevent workplace discrimination against LGBT employees. NCLR (National Council of La Raza) applauds the Senate for working in a bipartisan fashion to pass this critical piece of legislation and strongly encourages the House of Representatives to bring the bill to a vote and pass ENDA.

“In a country that promotes the ideal that anyone can achieve success through hard work, it’s clearly unfair that LGBT employees are still being fired based on sexual orientation and gender expression,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR. “ENDA will help to right this wrong, ensuring that workers are able to fail or succeed based on their own merits, instead of on their own personal background.”

Twenty-one states currently lack state-level workplace protections for LGBT workers, leaving those employees vulnerable to discrimination and unjust terminations. That group includes Arizona, Texas and Florida—three states with the largest percentage of Hispanic same-sex couples in the country. Both the majority of Americans and the majority of Latinos support legal protection against discrimination for LGBT individuals.

“While many people think this kind of legal protection is already in place, the reality is that LGBT workers still live in fear of losing their jobs because of who they are, not how hard they work,” added Murguía. “Americans recognize that this is unjust. The Senate has moved this legislation forward. Now, the House of Representatives must stand up for the dignified, equal treatment of every American worker by passing this bill.”