In August 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau released the latest numbers on income, poverty, and health coverage. The number of Americans living without health coverage in 2007 is considerably higher than it was in 2000, and communities of color continue to bear the brunt of this crisis. In 2000, the number was 38.4 million; in 2007, that number had risen to 45.7 million, with people of color accounting for more than half of those without health coverage.
Today, more than one in three Americans identifies him or herself as African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander, and together, they make up the “minority.” But by 2042, this “minority” is expected to become the majority, which will raise the visibility of issues confronting people of color and the importance of developing appropriate solutions.
Racial and ethnic health disparities continue to plague the nation-from differences in access, quality, and coverage, to gaps in disease rates and health outcomes. The cause of these disparities are broad and complex, ranging from societal issues like poverty and racism, to health system factors such as access to health care facilities. One of the most glaring inequities facing people of color, however, is lack of health coverage. It is important to consider the following:
People of color are more likely to lack health coverage (although communities of color make up only 34 percent of the population, they account for 55 percent of the uninsured. Every racial and ethnic group has uninsured rates that are higher than non-Hispanic whites and higher than the national average).
Although people of color are just as likely to be employed as non-Hispanic whites, they are more likely to have jobs that don’t offer health coverage (more than half of African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic workers were not covered by employer-base health insurance in 2007).
The lower your income, the less likely you are to have health coverage. This means less access to health care for communities of color (as a whole, people of color earn less than non-Hispanic whites, and the likelihood of having access to employer-based coverage is significantly less).
Public health insurance programs provide a key source of coverage for communities of color (in 2007, Medicaid provided coverage for a disproportionate percentage of nearly every racial and ethnic group, for adults and children).