Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to not only celebrate our community’s ongoing contribution to American life in all facets, but to also take stock and see what the future holds for our community, our family, and ourselves, and part of that future is the state of our health care.
Generally speaking, Latinos face greater obstacles to obtaining, and benefiting from, sexual and reproductive health services than non-Latino white Americans. Lack of access to care is consistently a barrier to getting preventive services in a timely manner — which can often be a matter of life or death. As a result, Latinos experience higher rates of reproductive cancers like cervical cancer (as well as unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections) than most other groups of people in the U.S, even though cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable with regular Pap tests during well-woman exams. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than women of any other racial or ethnic group and have the third-highest death rates from cervical cancer.
Despite these staggering statistics, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), approximately 20 percent of Latinas have not visited a physician in the last year, and one-third of Latinas do not have a regular doctor — with more Latinas being uninsured than women in any other racial or ethnic group. In addition to not having health insurance to help cover basic preventive care, women of reproductive age pay 68 percent more than men for out-of-pocket expenses, adding insult to injury.
But it’s not all bad news….
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as Obamacare, it is estimated that up to nine million Latinos will gain health insurance of some form. Latinos can choose a plan that fits their needs, and families can qualify for tax credits to help pay for private health insurance.
Recommended preventive services, including well-woman exams, Pap tests, and breast health services will be available without copays or deductibles. To top it off, insurance companies and employers (with the exception of churches and other places of worship) must cover birth control with no copays, which can save women up to $600 each year.
There’s more good news. Latinos with “pre-existing conditions,” such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, and even pregnancy, can no longer be denied coverage under the ACA. Latinas will get the care they need without fear of discrimination or higher premiums simply because of their gender.
In addition, the ACA will invest in collecting more information about health disparities, and make efforts to address the Latino community’s needs, by working to increase the number of culturally sensitive doctors, nurses, and health care providers in underserved areas where they are needed most.
More access means healthier women and healthier families.
As always, Planned Parenthood is committed to expanding access to affordable care. Currently, doctors and nurses at nearly 750 Planned Parenthood health centers across the country serve nearly three million people every year, 23 percent of whom — or over 600,000 individuals — are Latinos.
We are proud to provide care. No matter what!