Affordable Care Act a Great Stride Towards Racial Justice
"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I first came across this powerful quote during my college years. Today, as policy director of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), I think this quote is just one of many reasons I was drawn to working at APIAHF, an organization that supports health justice and works to stamp out health disparities.
Dr. King's words, not only his quote on health care, but also his stirring "I Have a Dream" speech, hit home for me every day.
As the mother of a young son and as someone who advocates on behalf of low-wage earners and minority communities for better access to health care, I was deeply honored to join tens of thousands of marchers on Saturday in Washington to push for continued progress on civil rights to achieve Dr. King's dream.
Although we have yet to fulfill his dream, I realize that we have made great strides toward racial justice. One of the greatest of those accomplishments was enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In many ways, the ACA is our most significant civil rights milestone since passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. With this law, we have finally set the stage to begin to eradicate injustice in health care.
Like all landmark laws, the ACA was a long, hard-fought battle. For years, our health system has been hampered by racial and ethnic disparities in health-care coverage, in addition to the quality of care received even when health insurance, income and access to care are taken into account. Minorities often fare far worse than whites on a range of health indicators, such as life expectancy, prevalence of chronic diseases, infant mortality and insurance coverage. The ACA dramatically restructures the health-care system to help narrow these gaps.
In about a month, on Oct. 1, the start of open enrollment for the ACA will also signal the closing of the health-care gap for millions of minorities. This legislation would not have been possible without the efforts and sacrifices of Dr. King and the many others who spurred a movement in the 1960s to fight to dismantle systemic inequality and build new structures to advance social justice.
On Wednesday, Americans will pause and remember the 1963 March on Washington and the many civil rights issues Dr. King championed. To truly honor Dr. King and celebrate the accomplishments of the civil rights movement, let’s ensure the ACA has the opportunity to create a more equitable playing field for all communities. My dream is that my son and all of the nation's children will have access to health care that is fair and just.