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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Health Care

All Americans should have access to high quality, comprehensive, and affordable health care. Nearly 50 million people in the United States lacked health care in 2010 - 16.3% of the population, accordidng to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even those with health coverage face rising costs and decreased benefits. Children, older Americans, and people of color are especially at risk of not receiving the health care they need. In 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to address the health care needs of all Americans and protect the interests of health care consumers.

Defending Health Care Reform

By addressing the huge disparities in both access to and quality of care, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act takes a momentous step toward ensuring that all Americans can benefit from affordable, high-quality health care.

Factsheets on Health Care Disparities Facing Racial and Ethnic Minorities

Amicus Briefs in Support of the  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

The Leadership Conference has joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is clearly constitutional and, in fact, advances equal opportunity and liberty for millions of disadvantaged Americans.

The Leadership Conference has also signed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Medicaid Expansion Provision of the Affordable Care Act . The brief outlines U.S. obligations under international treaties to address disparities in both access to and quality of coverage and care. In its statement of interest, The Leadership Conference said the Medicaid Expansion Provision “will lead to broader access to quality health care by the most vulnerable segments of society, including children, people of color, women, seniors, and people with disabilities.”

The National Women’s Law Center brief on behalf of 60 organizations in United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al v. State of Florida, et al. The brief "explains what’s at stake for women in the challenge to the new health care law and why the ACA, in correcting fundamental gender inequities in the health insurance and health care markets, is an appropriate exercise of federal Commerce Clause authority and therefore is constitutional."

The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum et. al. brief in support of the arugment that the Court should sever the minimum coverage provision and leave the remainder of the Affordable Care Act intact if the Courtfinds the provision unconstitutional.

National Health Law Program et. al. brief in support of the Medicaid Expansion Provision of the Affordable Care Act

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New Census Data Shows Rise of Those in Poverty and without Insurance

September 11, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

According to U.S. Census Bureau data released yesterday, the number of Americans living in poverty and without health insurance increased in 2008.

The number of uninsured rose from 45.7 million to 46.3 million and the official poverty rate rose from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 13.2 percent last year – the highest rate since 1997. Nearly 40 million Americans lived below the official poverty threshold in 2008.

In addition, poverty and uninsured rates increased more drastically in many minority communities than they did among non-Hispanic whites.

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Rock the Vote Campaign Aims to Engage Young Adults in the Health Care Reform Debate

September 10, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Nearly one in three young adults ages 19-29 is uninsured, making this demographic the most underinsured of any age group, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The coverage that children and teens receive under their parents’ health insurance plans or through Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) typically ends at 19 or 23 if they are enrolled in college.  Young adults are also less likely than other older adults to have access to employer-sponsored insurance because they tend to work jobs that are entry-level, low-wage, and often temporary.

In light of this information, Rock the Vote launched a new campaign yesterday to "educate young people about their stake in the health care debate." In this ad, actors Zach Braff and Donald Faison use humor to urge young adults to join the debate and demand that Congress act to provide greater access to health insurance.

Categories: Health Care

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National Health Center Week Recognizes Community Health Providers

August 10, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

National Health Center Week poster

This week is National Health Center Week, which was established to celebrate the work of community health centers that provide low-income people and those who lack access to health care with affordable and accessible primary and preventive care.

Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) provide a medical safety net for the uninsured as well as those without a reliable source of health care.  These centers focus on improving community health in inner city and rural areas by offering affordable or free health services, including dental and mental health services.  Community health centers also offer health education, substance abuse programs, transportation, and medical translation. 

FQHCs serve as the principal medical outlet for 18 million Americans who would otherwise lack adequate access to primary care.  Of those served, 71 percent of patients have family incomes at or below the poverty line and 39 percent are uninsured.  Of those who do have some form of health insurance, many either have too little coverage, or live in areas with few doctors.  Without the aid of FQHCs, there would be almost a quarter more people without access to health services.

The National Association of Community Health Centers hopes to reach even more people through its ACCESS for All America program.  By expanding and strengthening the network of FQHCs, ACCESS plans to provide 30 million people with affordable and accessible health care by 2015.

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'Free Rider' Provision in Senate Health Care Bill Gives Employers Incentive to Discriminate

August 5, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

Civil rights groups are opposing a provision in the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill that will give employers an incentive to discriminate against minorities, low-income people, and people with disabilities.

The "free rider" provision requires employers of firms with 50 or more employees who do not offer health coverage to pay the average subsidy cost per person for all employees who are eligible for a subsidy and who purchase coverage in the new health care plan.  Employees whose family income is below about $67,000 for a family of four qualify for a subsidy. But employers would not have to pay for employees with higher family incomes.

The provision creates a powerful incentive for employers to fire – or not to hire – the very people that health care reform is supposed to help.  For instance:

  • Employers will have an incentive to hire a woman whose spouse has health insurance coverage for her family, instead of hiring an uninsured single mother of two who qualifies for the new government insurance subsidy.
  • Employers will have an incentive to lay off employees who receive the subsidy, because it will save the business even more on labor costs.
  • Employers will have an incentive to avoid recruiting at community colleges, historically black colleges and universities, and minority-serving institutions to reduce applications from people likely to need health subsidies.
  • Employers will have an incentive not to hire people with disabilities who don't have the option of going without coverage because of their conditions.

"We all agree that Congress has a very important and complex task in passing legislation to give every American access to quality, affordable health care. In doing so, however, Congress has a special obligation to make sure that the legislation does not harm the most vulnerable in our society who need the benefits of health care reform the most," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.  "We urge the Senate Finance Committee to change this provision."

More information about the provision.

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California Budget Cuts Will Hit Low-Income Communities Hard

August 3, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Last week California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that will balance California's $26.3 billion deficit by making massive cuts to public education, health care, and other public services that will have a devastating effect on low-income families in the state.

The $6.1 billion cut to public education will force school districts to fire thousands of teachers  and compel the state's universities and community colleges to raise tuition by 20 percent and cut enrollment by 40,000. The additional tuition fees may put college out of reach for many low-income students. According to the National Report Card on Higher Education, low-income students already devote 40 percent of their income to pay for public four-year colleges, even after financial aid.

The new budget also contains huge cuts to Medi-Cal -- the state's Medicaid program -- and the Healthy Families Program, which currently provides low-cost health insurance to children whose families don't qualify for Medi-Cal.  The cuts will eliminate health insurance for 900,000 children, bring the state total of uninsured children to 1.7 million.

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Without Reform, Millions of Americans Could Their Lose Health Care Coverage

July 22, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Families USA report cover

Nearly seven million Americans, primarily people in working families, will lose their health coverage by the end of 2010 if no major policy changes take place before then, according to a new report by Families USA, (PDF) a progressive health care advocacy group. In 2007, the year with the latest available figures, the Census Bureau found that the nearly 46 million people do not have health insurance.

The report said that the nation's health care crisis has deepened due to sharp increases in unemployment rates, overwhelmed employers, and struggling families trying to keep pace with rising health insurance premiums. According to the report:

  • Average annual family health insurance premiums rose by 119 percent between 1999 and 2008, from $5,791 to $12,680;
  • Employers offering any health care coverage at all from 2000 to 2008 declined by 6 percent;
  • An estimated 2.3 million people are losing their coverage each year, or more than 190,000 a month 

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New Proposal Fills the 'Doughnut Hole' for Medicare Recipients

June 30, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Last week, the Obama administration announced a proposal that would cut in half the prescription drug costs for all Medicare recipients who fall into a coverage gap in their drug plans.

As the nation's largest federal health care program, Medicare covers nearly 40 million Americans, primarily seniors over the age of 65 and people with disabilities. The Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) allows Medicare patients to obtain insurance that covers some of their prescription drug costs.

Currently, more than 26 million Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in the plan, but about 26 percent of them are affected by a coverage gap.  Medicare covers costs up to a specific point and then beyond a certain point, which forces beneficiaries that fall between these coverage levels, commonly referred to as the "doughnut hole," to pay for drugs out of their own pocket or stop taking medications if they can't afford to pay.

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New Report Finds Health Care Disparities; Reform Legislation Should Expand Access to Quality Health Care

June 17, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

graph showing health care coverage among Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans

Lack of Health Insurance: More than one in three Hispanics and American Indians - and just under one in five African Americans - are uninsured. In comparison, only about one in eight Whites lacks health insurance.

As Congress considers legislation to expand access to health care, a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services on health care disparities between demographic groups shows that to reduce the disparities, Congress must make high-quality health care more affordable and invest in preventive care.

The report finds that minorities suffer from diseases and illnesses, like obesity, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS at higher rates than Whites. For instance, African-American men are 50 percent more likely than Whites to have prostate cancer and American Indians suffer from diabetes at more than twice the rate of Whites.

In addition, because minorities and low-income people are more likely to be uninsured and lack access to preventive care, they are more likely to end up in the emergency room. For instance, Low-income women are 26 percent less likely than women in the highest income bracket to receive a mammogram.

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Most American Workers Want Health Care Reform Now; New Coalition Will Push Congress to Pass Legislation

June 2, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

As the Obama administration pushes for health care reform this year, a new poll commissioned by the Change to Win, a coalition of labor unions, shows that most Americans (62 percent) support reforming the nation's health care system now.

A coalition of more than 1,000 progressive organizations, including Change to Win, Health Care For America Now (HCAN), and LCCR, have launched a national campaign to ensure real health care reform legislation passes this year, capitalizing on public support for a system that would provide quality health care to all Americans.  It is the largest progressive issue campaign in history.

"We need healthcare for America now that lowers the income, racial, ethnic, language, gender, and disability barriers to access to health insurance and quality health care providers. We need coverage reform that is affordable for everyone and we need delivery reform that reaches into every neighborhood, and does it with care that works for every community," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of LCCR.

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May Is Older Americans Month

May 29, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Living Today for a Better Tomorrow: Older Americans Month May 2009

May is Older Americans Month, a time to acknowledge the contributions older people have made and continue to make to our country, and to highlight our work to ensure that older Americans are able to live with dignity and security.

This year's theme for Older Americans Month is health care. Although Medicare provides health insurance coverage for people 65 or older, many seniors have difficulty getting the health care that they need.

One particular concern is prescription drugs, for which Medicare covers only part of the cost. A recent survey by The Senior Citizens League found that in the past year, 42 percent of respondents had postponed filling prescriptions or took less than the prescribed amount of a drug because of financial hardship.

Some states have programs that help low-income seniors and people with disabilities afford their prescription drugs, but the current financial crisis is causing some states to consider cutting funding to those programs.

Another concern for many seniors is being able to find a primary care doctor that will accept Medicare. Doctors are not required to accept Medicare insurance, and some choose not to because of low payments and complex paperwork requirements.

Combined with a nationwide shortage of primary care doctors, many seniors are faced with making dozens of phone calls before finding a doctor who will see them - or sometimes not finding one at all. A 2007 survey by The Commonwealth Foundation found that about a third of Medicare patients had trouble finding a doctor who would take Medicare.

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Amicus Briefs

Minimum Coverage Provision

The Leadership Conference has joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is clearly constitutional and, in fact, advances equal opportunity and liberty for millions of disadvantaged Americans.

Medicaid Expansion Provision

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has also signed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Medicaid Expansion Provision of the Affordable Care Act. The brief outlines U.S. obligations under international treaties to address disparities in both access to and quality of coverage and care. In its statement of interest, The Leadership Conference said the Medicaid Expansion Provision “will lead to broader access to quality health care by the most vulnerable segments of society, including children, people of color, women, seniors, and people with disabilities.” The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case in March 26-28.

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