Health law was written to narrow health gaps

    The new federal health law includes scholarship and loan money to help launch minorities into health care jobs. It’s part of the strategy to narrow the health gap between whites and minorities in the United States.

    The new federal health law includes scholarship and loan money to help launch minorities into health care jobs. It’s part of the strategy to narrow the health gap between whites and minorities in the United States.
    (Photo: During an interview at WHYY, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Joanne Grossi (right) leads Health Reporter Taunya English through the healthcare.gov Web site.)

    Joanne Grossi is regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That means she’s implementing the Affordable Care Act in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

    Grossi says people of color are more likely to be uninsured and experience worse health outcomes compared to whites in the U.S.

    Giving minorities more health providers who look like them — and intimately understand their culture — could improve health for blacks, Hispanics and other minorities Grossi says.

    Grossi: We are really trying to encourage more minorities into the health care field, so everything from LPNs, to RNs, to nurse practitioners, and then again into the under-served areas.

    Providing education loans and scholarships for health careers is important, but Grossi says the expansion of the Medicaid program and improving health insurance access will make the biggest difference in reducing racial and ethnic disparities.

    Right now, people of color made up 35 percent of the U.S. population but represent 54 percent of the uninsured across the country.

    The new federal health law also requires states to do a better job of documenting the ethnicity and race of the people served in public health programs.

    Kathleen Stoll leads health policy at the non-profit group Families USA. She says better data collection could build the case for targeted programs and outreach.

    Stoll: If we collect data and we see that we are consistently failing to reach communities that don’t speak English as a first language, it certainly provides strong ammunition that we need to make language accessible materials.

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