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Public Statements

CBC Hour: Eliminating Health Disparities

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the contributions of the Affordable Care Act to eliminating health disparities. Health disparities refer to the unequal health outcomes, ability to access health care, and rates of disease that impact certain Americans based on their income, race, ethnicity, or other identities. These disparities not only have devastating impacts on communities of color in my district, but they undermine health in historically marginalized communities across the Nation.

The disparities are staggering. For instance, in 2006, the infants of African American women had death rates over twice as high as infants of white American women. In 2009, the average American could expect to live 78.5 years, but the average African American could only expect to live to 74.5 years. African Americans also have significantly higher rates of hypertension and HIV than white Americans.

The impacts are financial as well as human. Eliminating health disparities would prevent approximately one million hospital stays per year, saving $6.7 billion in health care costs alone. Even more stunning, from 2003 to 2006, the direct and indirect costs of racial and ethnic health disparities totaled $1.24 trillion in the United States.

Insurance coverage is strongly related to better health outcomes, and African Americans have substantially higher uninsured rates than white Americans. Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will expand health insurance coverage to millions of Americans who are currently uninsured, and will provide subsidies to make coverage affordable for low-income Americans. The Affordable Care Act will mandate that Medicare and some private insurance plans cover essential preventive services at no additional cost, so that more people will be able to prevent illness and stay healthy.

The Affordable Care Act invests in community health centers, which offer primary health care to patients regardless of income, and in coordinated care measures, such as providing care teams to help patients manage chronic diseases and funding home visits for pregnant mothers and infants. Patients may be more likely to visit the doctor and receive quality care if physicians are able to understand their cultural background, so the Affordable Care Act also devotes resources to increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of health care providers and improving cultural competency training for all providers.

These are just some of the important ways in which the Affordable Care Act is working to eliminate health disparities. I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues to support the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act and eliminate health disparities for future generations.

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