If you woke up tomorrow and discovered that you were a Member of Congress, what would be your first order of business? The economy is in the tank, so maybe you would endeavor to create a jobs program to curb unemployment. Poverty is on the rise, so you could consider options for strengthening the country’s safety net programs such as food stamps and cash assistance. States all find themselves in dire budget straits, so perhaps you would push to alleviate some of the crises by infusing more federal money into state coffers. And of course, because we need money to pay for these critical items, you could revisit the whole rich-not-paying-their-fair-share-of-taxes issue.
Or, like the actual new Members of Congress, you could promote a bill that would repeal health care reform, and prioritize the profits of corporations over the well-being of people.
Instead of tackling the myriad problems we face as a country, Congress is attempting to dismantle health care reform. And if they’re successful, everyone will feel the negative impacts, but none so much as people of color. Here’s an overview of what communities of color will lose if Congress scraps health care reform:
- Expansion of Medicaid, a public health insurance program that is vital to increasing coverage for communities of color
- Provisions to explicitly reduce disparities, including provisions addressing the day-to-day conditions that affect whether a person is healthy or sick
- Increased funding for community health centers, which are a critical piece of the health care safety net for people who remain uninsured post-reform, especially undocumented immigrants
- Reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA), a significant victory for Native communities as this legislation hasn’t been reauthorized in over a decade
- Increased education money for students of color, with extra funding for institutions who primarily serve communities of color
During this time of renewed “debate” over health care reform, we need to remember what it is we are really talking about. This isn’t about socialism or death panels or killing jobs; this is about fixing a health care system that enriches health insurance companies at the expense of our health. And the price that communities of color will pay if we backslide on reform is far higher than we can afford.