Racial Justice in Health Care: An Agenda for New York

Posted May, 7 2019 by Amanda Dunker

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman”, Martin Luther King Jr. famously said in 1966.

Dr. King’s statement is sadly as true today in 2019 as it was in 1966. As a new HCFANY publication outlines (download it here), the quality of health care we receive in New York State is still shockingly unequal based on one’s race and ethnicity. For example, African-American New Yorkers have unequal outcomes as compared to Whites for a large range of health measures, including low birthweight babies, asthma hospitalizations and coronary heart disease mortality.  And 6.8% of Blacks and 11.8% of Hispanics in New York State lacked health coverage as of 2016, as compared to 4.5% of Whites.  Perhaps most dramatically, undocumented New Yorkers are excluded from most forms of health insurance due to punitive federal legislation. This is a major reason why so many lack primary care or have regular contact with health providers, resulting in serious health problems later on in life.

HCFANY’s new publication, released today, sets out a broad health justice agenda that will begin to address some of the inequities people of color face in the health care justice system in our state. Our proposals seek to expand and protect health coverage, and address the inferior care New Yorkers of color receive.  Among our proposals are to:

  • Expand New York’s popular low cost Essential Plan to all New Yorkers, irrespective of immigration status;
  • Reach additional people of color communities to enroll them in health coverage;
  • Expand consumer assistance funding to enable more New Yorkers, particularly people of color and low income New Yorkers, to better use their health coverage;
  • Create a fairer distribution of “indigent care funding” so that the hospitals that most serve the uninsured and Medicaid patients receive additional funding; and
  • Give impacted neighborhoods more say when community hospitals close, downsize or are absorbed into large health systems.

HCFANY, along with coalition partners throughout New York State, will be working hard for the remainder of 2019 to ensure that the health care needs of people of color are heard by New York decision-makers.  The health care agenda we have developed is an important contribution to a discussion we need to have as to how we can make health care access and delivery more equitable in our state.

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