As a family physician, my primary concern is ensuring that my patients receive the quality health care they need and deserve. At Salud Family Health Centers, where I work, we serve all community members, but we focus on providing care to low-income Coloradans, the medically underserved, migrant and farm workers. A lot of our clients are Latino. They receive top-notch health care, but not all Latinos have access to this kind of care.
Thirty-two percent of Latinos were uninsured in 2009, which is higher than any other racial or ethnic group, and half did not have a regular doctor. Lack of access to quality health care and preventive services along with lack of health insurance remain as major issues that affect the Latino community. The Affordable Care Act, signed into law last year by President Barack Obama, will go a long way toward improving the significant health disparities our communities face.
Many of the patients I see at Salud suffer from diabetes. In fact, an epidemic of diabetes looms large over many Latino communities, with roughly 2 million diagnosed cases nationwide. Under the Affordable Care Act, joining a new health care plan means receiving free preventive services, like diabetes screenings and nutrition counseling, as well as flu shots, cancer screenings and more. Additionally, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to people due to pre-existing conditions.
By 2014 individuals and small businesses will have access to affordable coverage through new, competitive, private health insurance marketplaces called exchanges. Tax credits will be given to middle-class families to help pay for the insurance. The exchanges and tax credits, as well as a Medicaid expansion for families of four with incomes less than $29,000, will result in as many as 9 million more Latinos becoming eligible for coverage.
Salud Family Health Centers operate in nine Colorado communities and served 72,570 patients in 2010.
Community health centers across the country serve over 20 million patients a year, and 35 percent of the patients served in 2009 were Latino. The Affordable Care Act has already begun to increase funding for more than 1,100 of these health centers, including Salud. This new funding will enable us to double the number of patients we serve.
New resources will boost the number of health care providers in communities where they are needed most. By covering more Americans and improving access to health coverage, the Affordable Care Act is making it easier for Latinos to get the high-quality care they need, which is something all of us - not only doctors - want to see.
- Dr. Virgilio Licona, associate director of medical services, Salud Family Health Centers