Don’t deny Latinos health care, La Raza leaders say

Civil rights leaders and pro-immigrant advocates with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) say pending legislation being discussed by policy-makers in Congress this week must not leave Latinos and other Americans behind when it comes to affording health care.

NCLR held a conference call Sep. 22 to discuss current policy proposals and the state of health care reform and its impact on Latinos and immigrants nationwide.

Speakers on the call said President Barack Obama and members of Congress should not give in to false rhetoric of anti-immigrant hecklers and obstructionists. As a result, millions of American citizens and legal immigrants will not achieve the security and stability originally promised. Egregious proposals that are on the table are leading to more red tape and bureaucracy between patients and their doctors, they added.

On the call N’gandu focused on the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill headed by Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT. “We need to create a stronger presence for Latinos especially at this critical time in the health care debate,” she said.

N’gandu added, “We have much at stake and the tone has gone from bad to worse due to nasty politics. And we see some troubling things taking shape, including the demonizing of undocumented immigrants.”

NCLR says it’s not right that the bill would require legal immigrants to be subject to a five-year waiting period and other restrictions before they can get Medicaid. Yet, they will still be required to purchase insurance, says the group. Further, U.S. citizens and legal immigrants will be unfairly denied access to tax credits that are supposed to make health care insurance more affordable because they have a householder who is an unauthorized immigrant. However these very same U.S. citizens and legal immigrants will be required to purchase insurance without the tax credits designed to help them afford coverage.

Meanwhile, certain amendments could impose harsh verification provisions that keep eligible people from enrolling in health insurance. The bill already has verification measures that could add more paperwork in the insurance application process and still eligible people will be required to purchase insurance, says NCLR.

Lastly, the bill shuts out people who are willing to pay full price for their health care such as undocumented workers who can’t get health care coverage even if they pay out of their own pockets.

Therefore, NCLR is urging people to take action by calling President Obama (202) 456-111 and members of the senate finance committee (877) 386-0172 and deliver these core messages:

– Vote yes on the Menendez-Bingaman C-2 amendment, which would improve the bill for mixed-status families
– Ensure that families with mixed immigration status are not left behind
– Remove barriers such as the five-year waiting period to Medicaid and CHIP and allow every child and legal immigrant access to quality health care
– Take the high road and keep the debate civil and oppose harmful verification and restrictions to affordable health insurance.

In a statement NCLR notes, “We’re sick and tired of national policymakers turning nasty politics into bad policies at the expense of the Latino community. After Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst at President Obama during his recent address on health care reform, many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are tripping over themselves to marginalize and demonize immigrant communities. Politicians are advancing policies that undermine access to health care coverage for many people who would be eligible for new health care options in reform that include citizens and legal immigrants.”

N’gandu said it’s important for supporters to call community and church leaders, colleagues at work and neighbors, urging them to join the action alert and call members of Congress.

This week it’s particularly important to reach out to our nations leaders and tell them successful reform does not put roadblocks between health care and our families, said N’gandu.

“Together we can stop those who want to kill health care reform and prevent Latinos from being thrown under the bus,” she said. “Now let’s go light up that congressional switchboard!”