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NLIRH commends Congress on health reform efforts, cautions that the work is not done

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NLIRH commends Congress and the Administration for continuing to push for much-needed health reform and we are pleased to see that some critical pieces affecting our community have been addressed in the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act.

If passed, the reconciliation package will cover an estimated 9 million uninsured Latinos and increase funding for community health centers, which is a lifeline for many in our neighborhoods. In addition, 4.4 million Americans in Puerto Rico and territories will receive $6.3 billion in new Medicaid funding, increased flexibility in how to use federal funding, access to the Exchange and $1 billion in subsides for low-income residents.

Because of these significant proposed changes to the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill, NLIRH supports the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in its desire for swift passage of this historic legislation. However, we do this with the caveat that no back-room deal with Representative Bart Stupak regarding abortion access is made. We also oppose any Presidential Executive Order or other action that seeks to add additional barriers to abortion.

We understand that this legislation is not perfect. NLIRH has deep concerns about Latino immigrants and their families who will be left on the sidelines even as 31 million currently uninsured Americans celebrate the end to their long wait for reform.

We respectfully urge the White House and Congress to acknowledge – the work is not done. If Heath Care Reform passes, efforts to address the following priorities must commence immediately:

  • Fix Nelson: the two-check provision is unworkable and will enact some of the most egregious and detrimental setbacks to abortion rights since the seventies. This system must be eliminated to ensure that insurers continue to include abortion coverage in their plans.
  • Include immigrant women: over half of all immigrants are women, and 53% of all immigrants are from Latin America.  The bill does not allow undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance in the exchange, and maintains a five-year waiting period for Medicaid for lawfully residing residents.  The exclusion of new immigrants from Medicaid is not only unjust, but also bad public health policy.
  • Parity for Puerto Rico: though the reconciliation provisions are better than what the Senate proposed, residents of Puerto Rico are still a long ways away from receiving Medicaid and other federal health care support at the same level as other states of the Union.

If health reform passes, NLIRH will celebrate the $11 billion allocation for community health centers and the increase in funding and inclusion of our sisters in Puerto Rico and U.S. territories. But we will also renew our commitment to fight for the human right of all people - regardless of legal status or zip code - to health, dignity and justice.