by Ben de Guzman, Diverse Elders Coalition National Managing Coordinator
On Tuesday, November 25, the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC), in partnership with the U.S. Department on Health and Human Services (HHS), hosted a briefing on the Affordable Care Act and diverse elders. As the new National Managing Coordinator for the DEC, I was excited to open the event by welcoming the audience and introducing Michael Adams, Executive Director of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), a DEC member. Michael provided a wealth of data on health care challenges faced by diverse communities, including Latinos, American Indians/ Alaska Natives (AI/ AN), Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), African Americans, the LGBT community, as well as people living with HIV/AIDS. Some of the highlights of these data include:
- AAPI Older Adults: Health disparities within a diverse AAPI elder population and the need for disaggregated data (eg. Disproportionate rates of breast cancer among Japanese and Filipino women).
- Hispanic Older Adults: In 2009, 32.4% of all Hispanics and 5% of Hispanic seniors lacked health insurance.
- LGBT Older Adults: Significant physical and mental health disparities: high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and more.
- HIV Positive Older Adults: 50% of those who are HIV+ will be age 50+ by 2015—70% will be 50+ by 2020.
With this baseline of information in place, Michael introduced two important partners in the DEC’s work, Matthew Heinz, who serves as HHS’s liaison to the LGBT community and providers, and Kathy Greenlee, Administrator for the Administration for Community Living (ACL). Both Mr. Heinz and Administrator Greenlee emphasized their agencies’ commitment to maintaining and expanding their responsiveness to diverse communities as we enter the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment.
The discussion moved to a panel format, which included Mr. Adams, Vickie Gottleich, Director of the ACL’s Center for Policy and Evaluation, and Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), another DEC member. The conversation expanded to include disparities that women face in accessing health care, as well as specific experiences Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees are having with Covered California, that state’s health insurance exchange. A vibrant Q&A session drilled down further into the issues.
With the second round of enrollment just beginning, the pending transition of political leadership in the Senate, and important conversations happening across the country around race and LGBT equality, this is an important time to be having this discussion for older adults across the spectrum. The DEC and its members continue to be at the forefront of this discussion and are committed to the well-being of all older adults, their families, and their communities.
Ben de Guzman is the National Managing Coordinator of the Diverse Elders Coalition. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.