A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

Communities of Color, Disproportionately Uninsured, Will Benefit Greatly, But State Reforms Urgently Needed

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Coordinator, 510-898-2053

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA — National healthcare reform just signed into law by President Obama will give a huge boost to low-income Californians and communities of color, who disproportionately lack access to care, but further state-level reforms are urgently needed, officials of The Greenlining Institute said today.

“The new law will help millions of African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian and Pacific Islanders, who now disproportionately lack health coverage, but it doesn’t go far enough,” said Carla Saporta, Greenlining’s health program manager. “We urgently need to pass state-level legislation such as AB 2578 so that we have the same sort of strict regulation of health insurance rates that California has now for auto insurance. Surely our health is at least as important as our cars.”

AB 2578, which passed the state Assembly in 2007 but failed by one vote in the Senate, would require health insurers and HMOs to seek approval for any rate increases over seven percent per year from California’s Department of Insurance or Department of Managed Care. The bill has gained new life since the passage of national healthcare reform this week, passing the Assembly Health Committee 11-3. Continuing anger at huge rate increases by insurers such as Anthem Blue Cross contributed to the momentum.

“Lack of health coverage is a true emergency for communities of color,” Saporta added.

“Latinos, for example, have the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group, African-Americans are more than half again as likely to be uninsured as whites, and Asian and Pacific Islanders are more likely than whites to forego routine and preventative care due to costs. National health insurance reform will do a lot to help fix this, but the measure President Obama signed doesn’t do nearly enough to control insurance rates. Our communities urgently need the added protection that AB 2578 will give, and we hope the legislature will pass further consumer protections as well.”