Affordable Care Act: Creating Health Access for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

By Howard K. Koh, M.D., MPH Assistant Secretary for Health

Every one of us knows someone- a friend, a relative, or maybe a patient- who couldn’t receive the care they needed because they lacked insurance. Thankfully, this will start to change on October 1, 2013, when people can sign up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, with benefits beginning as early as January 1, 2014.

The Affordable Care Act — what some may know as Obamacare, health reform, or the health care law of 2010 — is a historic piece of legislation that can reduce health disparities in our nation.  Of note, a lot in the health care law represents good news for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Through provisions of the Affordable Care Act, more Americans will have access to affordable health care coverage.  For Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the law’s benefits will help reduce disparities in both health care and health outcomes through expanded insurance coverage and better access to high-quality health care services.

For example, the Affordable Care Act has enabled 121,000 young Asian American and Pacific Islanders ages 19 to 25 to gain health coverage, because they can now stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.

Also, about 3.8 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with private insurance have gained expanded coverage of free preventive care, such as mammograms, diabetes screenings, and hepatitis A and B vaccines for infants, children, and adults.

Lastly, nearly 2 million uninsured Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will have new opportunities for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

As a Korean American son of immigrants, I am personally committed to help ensure that the nearly 1 in 5 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) who currently lack health insurance now have access to high quality, affordable health coverage. And as a physician and Assistant Secretary for Health, I am confident that the Affordable Care Act will deliver on the promise of better insurance, better care, and better prevention to elevate the public health of all Americans.

This is our chance to make the dream of quality, affordable health insurance a reality for millions of Americans in all of our communities. If we work together, America will be a country where all people have the opportunity to attain their highest achievable level of health.