National Hispanic Medical Association Urges the U.S. Supreme Court to Support the Individual Insurance Mandate to Increase Healthy Communities

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Hispanic Medical Association joined the American Nurses Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Student Association, Doctors for America, and the National Physicians Alliance in submitting a brief for Amici Curiae to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the minimum coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The minimum coverage provision (also known as the individual insurance mandate) is essential to the Affordable Care Act's provision ensuring that health insurance is available and affordable to the most people. We recognize that if people do not have insurance or this incentive to purchasing insurance, they will continue to delay health care until later stages of illness, showing up at emergency rooms sicker, and increasing the costs of health care services in all our communities.

"We argue," states president and CEO of NHMA, Elena Rios, MD, MSPH, "the individual mandate is constitutional because it does regulate trade in health care services. It does this by requiring most Americans to finance their health costs through insurance, by lessening the adverse selection so that costs are not shifted to others or the government, and by being the key to the insurance innovations of the rest of the law. Indeed, Hispanics have the greatest proportion of uninsured in our country and have the most to gain by this case."

Health care is so important to improving the quality of life and daily function of our society. Students pay attention and learn better, workers have less absenteeism and are more productive, men and women in the military are better fit to protect America and our families and communities can provide support for the next generation. 

Yet health care is a complex story.  In our country, health care costs represent 18 percent of the U.S. economy and most Americans cannot afford to purchase health care services out of pocket.  Thus, we have health insurance, that, for the most part, we purchase from private companies, and physician and hospital costs that have all been rising. Since 1965, we also have government supported health insurance for the poor (Medicaid) and for the elderly, blind and dialysis patients (Medicare).

Another part of the health care story that is being looked at by the Supreme Court is that we have an increasing number of persons, now estimated at 50 million Americans or 16 percent by the Census Bureau in 2010, who went without health insurance, leading to more illness, hospitalizations, caregiving costs, and premature death.  It is this group that impact the rest of us as their costs are shifted to be paid by other people (paying higher prices for example) and government funding. Of course, for Hispanic communities, we have immigrants and their health care which we subsidize by support from families and charity care by physicians and hospitals.

The 2010 Census Report also highlighted a positive trend in one age bracket for the first time (18 to 26 year olds) who did increase insurance coverage by 500,000, most likely due to the new Affordable Care Act which became law in March 2010.

The ACA passed by Congress and President Obama has already brought tremendous positive changes to our communities – increased access to health care, prevention, including women's health and wellness services; new health information tech and community health worker jobs; change in reimbursement of physicians and hospitals to focus on patient outcomes; fewer readmissions to hospitals; patient safety; interdisciplinary training of physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists and public health professionals; and community based research seeking culturally competent health interventions. 

That is why we support the ACA and its mandate for a minimum health care insurance coverage as we follow this historic debate before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Established in 1994 in Washington, DC, the National Hispanic Medical Association represents over 45,000 Hispanic physicians in the U.S. committed to improving health of our communities. For more information see www.nhmamd.org.

SOURCE National Hispanic Medical Association



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