Where Does It Hurt? the CBC Wants More African-Americans Involved in the Debate over Health Care Reform

Article excerpt

Nearly a quarter of African-Americans and almost a third of Hispanics are in dire straits if they get sick. Why? Because, they lack health insurance. Of the 37 million Americans without it, 21% are black, 32% are Hispanic and only 11% are white, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey. As Congressional committees wrangle over health care reform options, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is striving to ensure that African-American needs are met.

The CBC is concerned with whether reform will increase the number of minority health care providers, guarantee equal access to designated physicians, health clinics and hospitals, and provide quality care for urban and rural areas. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), a former psychiatric nurse and one of only three medical professionals in Congress, lauds health care reform's goal of universal availability. But she points out that many future health care providers will belong to health maintenance organizations (HMOs). And many HMOs in Texas, she notes, have been reluctant to invite African-American doctors, whose patients oftentimes are more seriously ill, to join them.

Rep. Earl F. Hilliard (D-Ala.) is concerned that universal health care may be mitigated by lack of transportation, especially in rural areas. He says reform is meaningless for the black elderly if they are unable to get from home to a doctor. …