Minority Lawmakers Push to Close Health Gaps

AP, June 9, 2009

Black, Latino and Asian lawmakers warned Democratic leaders that any health care overhaul that ignores health gaps between whites and minorities will face stiff opposition.

The lawmakers said they would be hard-pressed to support a bill without a new program providing access to health care for all Americans.

“The public health option has to be there,” Rep. Mike Honda, a California Democrat who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said at a news conference. “If we don’t have a public option, there’s no discussion.”

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New legislation

Members of the Asian caucus, along with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said they plan to introduce legislation this week that includes their wish list for broadening health care overhaul beyond various plans floated in the House and Senate.

Citing federal research showing higher rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and infant mortality among minorities, they said they would seek more funds for community health centers that provide care in poor neighborhoods.

The lawmakers also called for expanding a National Institutes of Health center that focuses on minority health concerns, works to improve work force diversity in the medical industry and collects more data to better track disparities in health care.

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“Believe me, a comprehensive health care reform bill without the aspects that we’re discussing today will be set for failure,” said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a New York Democrat who chairs the Hispanic caucus.

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