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Coming off the heels of the historic 2018 midterm elections, it is clear that the topic on the minds of voters across America is health care. Scores of candidates won with a full throated defense of protecting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which extends health insurance coverage to millions more Americans, protects those with pre-existing conditions, bans lifetime caps on care, and allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.
This was the election where it became clear that the ACA - also known as Obamacare - is one of the most transformative pieces of legislation in modern history.
Perhaps nowhere is that truer than in the Latino community. In a recent poll Latinos stated that health care was the top issue for their community Latinos and communities of color in particular benefited the most from the ACA. Millions of Latinos gained health insurance and under the law, the uninsured rate for working-age Latino adults fell from 43.2 percent in 2010 to 24.8 percent in 2016, a nearly 20-point decline which constituted the largest drop of any ethnic group.
It would make sense that in the wake of this resounding message that candidates in 2020 would make a defense of Obamacare a top priority in order to speak to a wide range of voters, especially Latinos. But instead, in a crowded Democratic field, we have seen many candidates promising plans that would eliminate the ACA altogether and start with something new.
One proposal being pushed by many candidates - Medicare for All - would impose a significant tax increase on middle class families. Candidates promising otherwise don’t have the numbers to back it up.
Vice President Biden’s recently released plan is a realistic approach to affordable, quality healthcare that expands and builds upon the ACA in an effective manner. It will protect the people who have been consistently left behind by providing Americans with an affordable public option, a more generous tax credit to help them pay for their premiums, and affordable prescription drugs. Anyone who wants to choose the public option can do so, whether they currently have insurance through the individual market, through their employer, or whether they are going uninsured. Every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have high quality, affordable health insurance and access to quality health care.
Moreover, Vice President Biden’s plan tackles health care disparities that unfairly impact the Latino community. Currently, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate amongst developed nations with women of color dying at three times the rate of white women due to pregnancy related causes — which is frankly disgraceful for a nation that prides themselves on the advancement of technology and medicine. California’s maternal health strategy halved their maternal death rate, Biden will take it to every state in the nation. In the 21st Century, childbirth should not be deadly and Biden’s plan will protect women across the country, no matter their race.
His plan will also double the investment in community health centers which provide primary, prenatal, and other important care to underserved populations, including undocumented immigrants. Latinas currently experience higher rates of cervical cancer, HIV and STD rates, and pregnancy rates then their white counterparts and heavily rely on centers such as planned parenthood for their health needs outside of abortions. This influx of investment will expand access to high quality health care for the populations that need it most. Additionally, a Biden Administration would also work with health care providers to improve the quality of care and ensure fair wages for health care workers, including home care workers.
And, Biden will redouble efforts to ensure mental health parity laws and expand funding for mental health services. This is particularly important for our youth given that Hispanic students between grades 9-12 are at greater risk of attempting to commit suicide than their black and white peers.
Vice President Biden’s plan to “Protect and Build on the Affordable Care Act” was developed on the idea that “regardless of gender, race, income, sexual orientation, or zip code,” no one should be denied access to quality health care. Access to health care not only protects our communities but it restores dignity and allows for peace of mind in what can be desperate medical situations. For Biden, it’s evident the health care fight is personal. He understands, better than anyone, the burden and tragedy many families are forced to face when navigating the current health care system and he knows that the United States can and must do better. As medical doctors, practitioners and leaders in our community, we wholeheartedly agree.
*Dr Elena Rios is currently the President & CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association, (NHMA), representing Hispanic physicians in the United States. Dr. Sergio Rimola is a Board-certified member of the American Congress of Ob/Gyn and serves in the National Hispanic Medical Association as DC-Metro Region Co-Chairperson.