PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT OF 2010: Advancing Health Equity for Racially and Ethnically Diverse Populations

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Andrulis, Dennis P.
Siddiqui, Nadia J.
PURTLE, Jonathan
Duchon, Lisa
Andrulis, Dennis P. and Siddiqui, Nadia J. and PURTLE, Jonathan and Duchon, Lisa JOINT CENTER FOR POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC STUDIES (2010) PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT OF 2010: Advancing Health Equity for Racially and Ethnically Diverse Populations. Technical Report. Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
Racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care in the United States are persistent and well documented. Communities of color fare far worse than their white counterparts across a range of health indicators: life expectancy, infant mortality, prevalence of chronic diseases, self-rated health status, insurance coverage, and many others.1 As the nation’s population continues to become increasingly diverse—people of color are projected to comprise 54% of the U.S. population by 2050 and more than half of U.S. children by 20232— these disparities are likely to grow if left unaddressed. Recent health care reform legislation, while not a panacea for eliminating health disparities, off ers an important fi rst step and an unprecedented opportunity to improve health equity in the United States. Reforming the nation’s health care system was President Obama’s top domestic priority when he was sworn into offi ce in January 2009. Th e road to reform was complex and unoffi cially started in summer of 2009 when House and Senate committees began to draft legislation. On November 7, 2009, the House of Representatives passed its health care reform proposal, Th e Aff ordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3962). On December 24, 2009, the Senate passed its own proposal for health care reform, Th e Patient Protection and Aff ordable Care Act (H.R. 3590)*, which was a merged version of the Senate Finance Committee’s America’s Health Future Act (S.1796) and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions’ Aff ordable Health Choices Act (S. 1697).† Eff orts to reconcile diff erences between the Senate and House bills were stymied by the death of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), a lifelong proponent of health care reform and critical force in securing a proposal’s passage in the Senate. Faced with limited options and expecting that a compromise bill could not get Senate support, the House passed the Senate’s proposal and Th e Patient Protection and Aff ordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010 (Pub. L. No. 111-148).‡ On March 30, 2010, the ACA was amended by Th e Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R. 4872). According to Congressional Budget Offi ce (CBO) estimates, the ACA, as reconciled by H.R. 4872, will reduce the defi cit by $143 billion over the next decade and decrease the number of non-elderly uninsured by 32 million, leaving 23 million uninsured— approximately one-third of whom would be undocumented immigrants.3 Th is report provides a comprehensive review of general and specifi c ACA provisions with the potential to signifi cantly improve health and health care for millions of diverse populations and their communities. Th e narrative that follows identifi es these provisions, discusses why they are important, and considers challenges that may lie ahead in implementing them. We have organized this presentation in three major sections. Th e next section discusses provisions that explicitly address health disparities, such as those concerning data collection by race/ethnicity, workforce diversity, cultural competence, health disparities research, health disparities initiatives in prevention, and health equity in health insurance reform, and discusses their implications for racially and ethnically diverse communities. Section III describes general provisions, including health insurance reforms, access to care, quality improvement, cost containment, public health and social determinants of health, all of which are likely to have major implications for diverse communities. An accompanying appendix identifi es these provisions, provides a timetable and, where identifi ed in the legislation, the federal agencies responsible for implementation, as well as allocations as of June 30, 2010. Section IV discusses issues that will be critical in realizing the full potential of health care reform and highlights questions and directions for the future, particularly in context of important priorities for reducing racial/ethnic health disparities that were left unaddressed.