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Repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Impact on Our Patients

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Written by Maria Bryan

The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center knows firsthand that this country has come a long way in in expanding health insurance coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. About 20 million Americans have gained health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) since it became law in 2010. Congress is now vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which puts this advancement in danger if an appropriate replacement is not in place.

Lanying Lee was one of the first people we assisted to enroll for health insurance through the New York State of Health exchange in 2013. The exchange was set up by New York State to meet the requirements of Obamacare and help consumers shop for health insurance and apply for government subsidies.

Lanying is a petite Chinese woman who lives in Flushing, Queens with her small family. She had been a manicurist in New York City for ten years. Her husband owns a small shop that sharpens tools used in nail salons and does odd part-time work for added income. While their modest income made them ineligible for government funded health insurance, they did not earn enough to pay the high cost of private health insurance. “I read about Obamacare,” says Lee. “We were hearing a lot about it. I thought, ‘I need this.’”

According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, two in ten Asian American residents of New York City were uninsured prior to the implementation of the New York State of Health initiative under the Affordable Care Act. For Lanying Lee, Obamacare could not have arrived soon enough. “We did not have health insurance for three years. We are getting older, and we want to take care of our health. We have specialist doctors to go to and general check-ups that we should have regularly. We were not going to the doctors because we could not pay. Having insurance has made such a difference for us. We are going to the doctors on schedule, and we are staying healthy. Obamacare is what we needed. It has been a bumpy ride to enroll, but it was worth it. We are very happy.”

Since the NY State of Health exchange was implemented, the percentage of uninsured New Yorkers was reduced by half. Having health insurance means that patients are able to maintain regular check-ups and preventative care, where they otherwise might forgo care or resort to going to an emergency room.  Many plans under the Obamacare provide free preventative care and well-woman visits, and reduced costs on prescription drugs.

On January 4th, 2017, NY Governor Cuomo stated his concern for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement in place. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act may result in over 2.7 million New Yorkers losing their health coverage.  “Since its implementation, the Affordable Care Act has become a powerful tool to lower the cost of health insurance for local governments and New Yorkers, and it is essential that the federal government does not jeopardize the health and livelihoods of millions of working families,” Governor Cuomo said.

We believe that patients like Lanying Lee may suffer great harm if they lose their health insurance. We implore our members of congress to not repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement in place.

*Name of client has been changed

Read our thoughts on the Repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Impact on Community Health Centers

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Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation – A Reflection on Minority Health

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Written by Rachelle Peraz Ocampo, EdM

This year, Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health celebrates its 30th year anniversary and launched the theme, “Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation” to observe National Minority Health Month. What does this mean for the Asian American community and our patients at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center? What does this mean to me?

The term “Health Equity” has been a trending phrase in the public health world, and it continues to dominate in spaces that align with advocating for social justice, addressing social determinants of health, and providing opportunities for the underserved. I first encountered the term “Health Equity” when I came across a simple, yet powerful image entitled “Equality Doesn’t Mean Justice.” It illustrates the stark difference between two often interchanged terms: equality and equity.

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These two images point out that equality is giving everyone the same resources, but this only works if everyone starts from the same place. Equity is providing access to the same resources or opportunities. At the Health Center, we believe that everyone should have the same opportunity to achieve their highest level of health. This means that we provide quality and comprehensive care to all members of our community no matter their ability to pay or their citizenship status. In the Health Education Department, we provide extra support to the populations we serve by developing and disseminating culturally and linguistically appropriate health resources. Our materials are shared through various online and print platforms, outreach and tabling events, coalition meetings, local businesses, educational workshops, and 1-1 counseling.

For me, “Accelerating Health Equity for the Nation” is about recognizing my personal areas of privilege. This includes the opportunity to earn degrees from higher education institutions through federally funded loans, having a strong and reassuring support system, and the opportunity to live in a safe home and neighborhood. By recognizing these areas of privilege, I proactively choose to raise awareness that systemic barriers exists and support underrepresented minority groups access and navigate resources that are culturally relevant and language appropriate. As we celebrate National Minority Health Month, it is imperative to acknowledge that there are severe gaps with providing equitable opportunities for minorities, particularly the Asian American community. The responsibility to bridge these gaps, as minorities, is on us.  These are some examples that I believe are how we can take part in the movement of health equity:

  • We need to develop more strategic partnerships with well-funded institutions, city agencies, and grassroots organizations that have aligned goals to serve minority populations.
  • We need to incorporate addressing minority health in all initiatives that drive socio-economic factors like affordable housing, job opportunities, and access to fresh and healthy food.
  • We need to create mentorship programs that focus on connecting minority students with other minority public health professionals.
  • We need to advocate for data disaggregation to provide improved funding streams, since different Asian American ethnicities have unique social, educational, and economic experiences and issues.

Supporting minority health can be as simple as retweeting a message that supports Health Equity for the Asian American community or can be as extensive as rallying groups to push Bill Intro 251 on data disaggregation. Each of us has a role to play for accelerating health equity, and I choose to be proactive in utilizing my extensive networks to raise awareness and provide tools and opportunities for our issues to be heard and addressed.

Rachelle Peraz Ocampo, EdM is the Associate Director of Health Education at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She is also a Lead Co-Host of Makilala TV, the first Fil-Am TV Talk Show in the NY metro area and is on the Board of Directors for Roots Of Health which provides free clinical services and health education to women in the Philippines. Ever since her involvement with Pilipino American Unity for Progress, Inc. (UniPro), she has always been challenging herself to lead in spaces that help raise the Pilipino American voice. Follow Rachelle’s passions: @RockyRach16 @CBWCHC @MakilalaTV @ROHorg @UniProNow


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AAPI Nexus Journal Releases Special Community Health Center Issue

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Photo Credit: Les Talusan/AAPCHO

The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center took part in a very special issue of the AAPI Nexus Journal, that focused on the role community health centers have in Asian American communities across the country.

The AAPI Nexus is a national journal that focuses on policies, practices and community research to benefit the nation’s burgeoning Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. This edition is entitled “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, & Pacific Islander Communities and Federally Qualified Health Centers”, which celebrates the 50th year of the community health center movement.

Health Center staff co-authored numerous articles published in this issue in areas including research participation of community health centers, the Affordable Care Act outreach and enrollment efforts, Chinese language patient portal, PCMH model addressing Hepatitis B perinatal transmission and families with children with special health care needs, building a data warehouse to promote research, and efforts to implement patient experience survey. Take a look at the abstracts here.

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AAPCHO Executive Director, Jeffrey Caballero; Congresswoman Grace Meng; CBWCHC Chief Executive Director, Jane Eng. Photo Credit: Les Talusan/AAPCHO

This issue was launched at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on March 17, 2015. Among the speakers that provided remarks at the launch event were Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Acting Assistant Secretary of Health of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.  Congresswomen Grace Meng (D-NY) and Judy Chu (D-CA), two leading Asian American voices on Capitol Hill, also offered congratulations at the Nexus Journal launch event and reaffirmed their support of community health center funding at the federal level. Many of our staff was able to make the trip and join the celebration as well!

The journal is a joint project of the Asian Health Services, Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Waimanalo Health Center, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), and UCLA Asian American Studies Center. Dr. Shao-Chee Sim, CBWCHC’s Chief Strategy Officer, along with Professor Marjorie Kagawa-Singer of UCLA and Professor Ninez Ponce of UCLA served as co-guest editors for this special issue. Congratulations to all on this very important issue.

SinoVision covered the launch event, you can view that here.