News Column

Hispanics Losing Ground in Health Care

PR Newswire


WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Today the federal government's own data has shown that there is a growing crisis in health care for Hispanic communities. It's a crisis that needs an emergency response at all levels," said Dr. Jane L. Delgado, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health (the Alliance) commenting on the National Healthcare Disparities Report released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The 2005 National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR) finds that while disparities in access to health care are diminishing for all other minority groups, they are widening for Hispanics. A majority (80%) of access measures being tracked by DHHS have worsened for Hispanics since last year's report to the Nation. Overall the 2005 Report found that "for Hispanics, the majority of disparities for both quality and access were growing wider."

At the same time, according to Dr. Delgado, "at agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), support for Hispanic services in chronic disease has not matched the need; the number of Hispanic researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been stagnant; and, we are looking at reduced Medicaid budgets in many states. We will not reverse the trend of worsening disparities reported today to the Nation without an improved federal response and investment."

Among the worsening disparities for Hispanics (compared to non-Hispanic whites) reported by DHHS today were:

* Declines in diabetes care quality (at the same time it improved for non-Hispanic whites); * Higher rates of new HIV/AIDS cases experienced by Hispanics; * Disparities in access to mental health treatment for serious mental illness; * Longer and more frequent delays in illness/injury care for Hispanic patients; and * Lack of smoking cessation counseling for hospitalized Hispanic smokers.

The report found overall that Hispanics had worse access to care than non- Hispanic whites for the large majority (88%) of key access to care measures being tracked.

To address the growing disparities highlighted in the release of the 2005 National Healthcare Disparities Report, the Alliance today issued to DHHS Secretary Leavitt a five-point plan to be enacted before the release of the next Disparities Report. Those five-points are:

* Point 1. Working within the already agreed funding set for CDC by Congress for Fiscal Year 2006, reconfigure funds to achieve a doubling of the budget for Hispanic community-based services with the majority of funds supporting an expansion of Hispanic services within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. * Point 2. Establish an adequate budget within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to deliver counseling and outreach services through Hispanic community-based agencies and achieve 100% sign-up of Hispanic children and adults eligible for either Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program but not signed up for the programs. * Point 3. Issue a report on the costs and authorities required to expand eligibility under the Children's Health Insurance Program to the parents of eligible children up to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level. * Point 4. Establish a model for a specific billing code for private insurers to reimburse certified medical interpreters and issue a report on the costs and authorities needed to implement the billing code under federally supported programs (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP). * Point 5. Release National Institutes of Health (NIH) data on the number of supported Hispanic principal investigators (PIs), the budget for Hispanic community education programs, and plan for doubling the budget for Hispanic community education by the next fiscal year in each Institute and Center.

Dr. Delgado sees today's National Healthcare Disparities Report as a clear mandate for a federal response. According to Dr. Delgado, "Twenty years ago, the Secretary's Task Force Report on Black and Minority Health, issued by then Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret M. Heckler, found that there was inadequate data on Hispanic health but that the limited available data clearly showed a lack of access for Hispanics. Secretary Heckler's report laid out a clear and urgent need that was not adequately addressed by subsequent leaders of DHHS. Twenty years later we have better data but not better access. That must change today. It is vital to the health and well- being of all the Nation's communities." National Alliance for Hispanic Health

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Source: PR Newswire

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