National health reform is designed to help everyone who lacks medical coverage, but minority groups stand to benefit most — simply because they have the farthest to go.
One-third of Hispanics and more than 20 percent of African-Americans nationwide lack health insurance. But the law’s provisions — most of which take effect in January 2014 — will effectively cut by half the number of African-Americans who are uninsured, and significantly improve coverage rates for Hispanics.
“I think it’ll have the biggest impact in terms of reducing disparities in this country of any piece of legislation since the Civil Rights Act,” says Robert Restuccia, executive director of Community Catalyst, a Boston consumer advocacy organization that operates in 40 states. “I’ve worked 30 years on this stuff and there’s not anything [else] that even comes close.”
The benefits go beyond basic coverage. The federal Affordable Care Act — unlike Massachusetts’ 2006 health overhaul — provides preventive measures for free. That means no out-of-pocket costs for diabetes, HIV, and cholesterol screening, dietary counseling, immunizations, and mammograms.
Dr. Carl C. Bell, a Chicago psychiatrist long involved in the fight for equal care, says the focus on prevention will profoundly improve the quality of health care for nonwhites.
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