Monday, May 22, 2006

Universal health care hearing report by Patricia Documet

Patricia Documet said: I had the opportunity to testify yesterday (May 21) at a Citizens Hearing on Health Care Reform, at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill.

Thirteen different people got to offer their testimony in front of US Representative John Conyers, Jr. and PA Senator Jim Ferlo and an audience of over 250 people.
They wanted testimony from the point of view of citizens (underscore "citizens"). They hearing was organized by the Western PA Coalition for Single-Payer Health Care in support of bill HR 676 (a US house bill).

Below is a copy of what I said.

Thanks for the opportunity to testify at this hearing.

The Census Bureau estimates there are over 42 million Latinos in the U.S. In Allegheny County, in 2006, there are approximately 17,000 Latinos, just under 2% of the population. I have conducted research dealing specifically with health care access for the Latino population in southwestern Pennsylvania and I am involved in several local Latino organizations.

Much has been said about undocumented immigrants. However, over 30 million Latinos in the U.S. are legally here – some have been here for generations. Many Latinos who are uninsured are in this situation pretty much like other working poor in the U.S.

Thirty-eight percent of all Latinos are uninsured in our area, coinciding with national figures. Sometimes, Latinos have health insurance, but health plans exclude preventive care or exclude family members. Others work two or three part time jobs and therefore are not eligible for insurance.

The waiting period for the insurance plan to be operational, plus the high turnover in jobs results in many people being uninsured most of the time, even when they work at jobs with benefits. For example, for Rita, an American citizen and a full time employee in the service sector in Pittsburgh, the waiting period was one year.

Although she complained of pain in her knees and back, she had yet to see a doctor. When I met her, she hoped to be able to continue working eight more months, until she could get covered care. Shortly after her insurance became active, she changed jobs and had to face another waiting period. As other working poor, Latinos alternate between being employed and unemployed, insured and uninsured. It is those who have fewer years of schooling and less marketable skills who are hit the hardest. They are the ones who would most benefit from universal health care access.
Another crucial problem is that Latino citizen children tend not to be enrolled in CHIP. Their parents fear that receiving public assistance may get them into trouble. This happens even when they are legally here. The misconception may be perpetuated by a question asked when applying for permanent residency, that deals with having received public assistance.

Some Latinos in our area say they choose to go without insurance, or without a regular source of care. However, this is not a true choice, because they cannot afford health insurance. To complicate matters further, lack of information means many are unable to use the few resources that are available to them.

A single payer universal health care system would be the fairest way of addressing the needs of all these Americans.


At Mon May 22, 01:51:00 PM, Blogger Fernando said...

Diego Chavez-Gnecco said: This is great thanks so much Patricia for testifying on behalf and for the interest of our community, and for the summary of your presentation. Yesterday in the afternoon at the same time of the hearing we had the Allegheny County Head Start Program visiting the community to increase enrollment of children and families in their program. The presentation went very well and hopefully everybody will be hearing more about this initiative in the next couple of weeks. For more information about the Allegheny County Head Start Program people can call 1-866-214-KIDS (1-866-214-5437). Para Español deje su nombre y telefono y su llamada le sera respondida a la mayor brevedad.

In the mean time here are some other interesting statistics about health insurance in Hispanic/Latino children in our country:

Latino Children Disproportionately Lack Health Care Coverage

Estimates from the 2004 Current Population Survey

. There are 2.9 million uninsured Latino children in the United States. One out of every five Latino children under age 18 lacks health insurance.

. One-third (34.7%) of all uninsured children under age 18 are Latino. Yet Latinos comprise only 18 percent of all children under 18.

. Twenty percent of Hispanic children are uninsured, compared to 9 percent of African-American children and 6 percent of white children.

. Uninsurance rates for Hispanic children fell from 26 percent in 1998 to 20 percent in 2003.

. While the uninsurance rate fell for Latino children by 6 percentage points, the uninsurance rate for Latino parents rose by 3 percentage points, equaling more than 1.5 million uninsured parents.

. More than 7 in 10 Latino uninsured children are eligible for coverage through Medicaid or SCHIP, but are not enrolled.



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