Last August, then-candidate Donald Trump tried to court voters of color by asking, “What the hell do you have to lose?” When it comes to health care, the answer is clear: everything. Senate Republicans are poised to vote for the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which would strip coverage, reduce access to care, and cause a spike in premiums for millions of people of color. Trump pledged to “be president for all Americans,” but the plan he endorses will disproportionately hurt people of color while giving a massive tax break to the wealthiest Americans. If he succeeds, thousands of people will die and millions more will suffer. Here are three things you need to know about the Senate health care bill and communities of color.
1. Defunding Planned Parenthood would reduce access to health care for women of color
Planned Parenthood provides health services—such as physicals, cancer screenings, and contraceptive care—to nearly 1 million people of color, and this number is increasing. For example, in the past decade, the number of African American patients increased by 12 percent. Furthermore, according to a recent survey, 1 in 4 Planned Parenthood clients reported that it was the only place they could get the services they need. Without Planned Parenthood health centers, many women of color will be unable to find and receive high-quality, affordable health care.
2. Allowing insurers to charge older Americans five times the premium of a young person while decreasing subsidies with age threatens the well-being of countless people of color
The age tax is an attack on one of society’s most vulnerable populations and will disproportionately hurt people of color. Today, the poverty rate for Asian American seniors is nearly double that of white seniors—7 percent versus 13 percent. For certain Asian American subgroups, such as Cambodian American seniors, poverty rates are as high as 23 percent. African American and Hispanic seniors experience poverty rates of 18 percent and 20 percent, respectively, and according to Demos, “Ninety percent of Latino and 83 percent of African-American seniors have insufficient retirement assets to last through their expected lifespans.” Elderly American Indians and Alaska Natives are already five times more likely to forego medical care due to cost than the average American senior. Forcing the near-elderly to pay significantly more for health insurance would undermine retirement planning and diminish outcomes for people of color.
3. Slashing coverage for millions of Americans risks increased racial disparities in health outcomes
People of color experienced historic increases in coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Between 2013 and 2015 alone, the uninsured rate for Asian, Hispanic, and black populations declined by 7, 9, and 5 percentage points, respectively. However, the Senate health care bill seeks to undo this progress by stripping coverage from 10.6 million people of color in 2022. The effect on coverage would get even worse in 2025, when deeper cuts to Medicaid funding would kick in. People of color make up 58 percent of Medicaid enrollees and suffer disproportionately from a range of health disorders, including asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. Without health coverage, these families will face impossible decisions and tragic consequences.
If passed, the Senate health care bill would devastate communities of color. Instead of advancing legislation that will undermine the health of our country’s most vulnerable populations, the Trump administration should work across the aisle to find ways to improve the Affordable Care Act.
Michele Jawando is the vice president for Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress. Connor Maxwell is the research associate for Progress 2050 at the Center.