March 23, 2010
For Immediate Release
NAKASEC Statement on the Signing of a Landmark Health Care Bill
Hemi Kim, NAKASEC, 202. 339. 9318
Sohn Sik, KRCC, 773.588.9158
Dae Joong Yoon, KRC, 323. 937. 3718
(Washington DC) – This morning, President Barack Obama signed a momentous health care bill into law in the presence of key lawmakers as well as health care advocates including the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC). This new law will significantly overhaul the current health care system by increasing access to and equity in health care to millions of uninsured Americans and communities of color, including Korean Americans and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
EunSook Lee, executive director of NAKASEC said: “Health reform has been a legislative priority for us because Korean Americans have one of the highest uninsured rates in the country at 52%. Key factors restricting access including their immigration status, whether they are undocumented or legal permanent residents, language barriers, affordability and employment in a small business. This bill is something that impacts our community severely and we have put our all in supporting the process while loudly insisting that it includes immigrant communities.”
Sik Sohn, executive director of the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center added: “We recognize the significance of the new health law and welcome the expansion of coverage to millions. But it is bittersweet. The poorest in our community will not be eligible for health insurance despite their contribution to the health care system and America’s economy.”
Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of the Korean Resource Center concluded: “We will grab hold of the wins made by Sunday’s historic health system overhaul and begin the work of educating our community about the new changes. We also urge the Senate to act swiftly with the budget reconciliation process and its package of fixes that further increases the number of Americans insured and reduces the deficit.”
Brief Summary of the New Health Care Law
What the New Law Contains
The bill signed into law comes at the heels of the House passage of the bill on Sunday, March 21. Overall the bill will expand coverage to approximately 31 million uninsured. Slightly less than half of Korean American adults (48%) are insured and will not be required to change their coverage. What will change:
• Seniors who benefit from Medicare will find medicine more affordable if they currently pay high costs for prescription drugs as a result of the Part D “donut hole.”
• Korean Americans who make less than 133% FPL ($24,360/year for a family of three) and had not been eligible for Medicaid because they did not have kids, were not pregnant, were not elderly or disabled, now will have access.
• Korean Americans will be able to newly apply for health insurance without fear of denials or different rates for pre-existing conditions.
• Low and middle income families will receive substantial tax breaks to make purchasing healthcare affordable.
• Young people will be able to receive dependent coverage until 26 years of age.
• The Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will be fully funded until 2015 at which point the federal CHIP match rate will increase by 23%.
• Small businesses will have assistance in purchasing health benefits for their employees.
• In the health insurance market, there will be minimum benefit standards and a cap on out-of-pocket costs which will help prevent families from facing large debt or bankruptcy. Insurance companies will no longer be able to impose a lifetime limit on benefits.
Individual Americans will be obligated to pay from about $700 to $2000 per family or 2.5% of income each year on your income tax if you do not have health insurance. Employers with more than 50 workers and who do not offer coverage will pay penalties for each worker who does not have health insurance coverage, if at least 31 workers receive a tax credit for purchasing health insurance coverage. If the employer with more than 50 workers does offer coverage, the penalties are $2-3,000 per worker that receives a tax credit for purchasing health insurance coverage.
With more than 200 workers, automatic coverage is required. Small employers with no more than 25 employees and average annual wages of less than $50,000 that purchase health insurance for employees will receive a tax credit.
States will be required to create Health Benefit Exchanges to help individuals and employers compare health plans, make informed choices and assist with enrollment. Participation in the exchange is voluntary however subsidies will be available through the exchange.
What the Law Excludes: My Body But Not My Uterus; Myself But Not My friends
How does the health care reform treat immigrants?
The new law contains positive provisions, such as eligibility for affordability credits for lawfully present immigrants. However the bill falls short of what we had hoped for. Largely it does not remove the federal five-year waiting period that prevents lawfully residing, otherwise eligible immigrants from enrolling in Medicaid and Medicare. Legal immigrants will be subject to the individual mandate unless they are considered low-income.
Undocumented immigrants, many of whom pay federal and state taxes, are prohibited from receiving affordability credits that will make health insurance more accessible. This not only places undue burdens on immigrants, but on immigrant families who earn the lowest in our communities. It also prohibits undocumented immigrants from purchasing private health insurance at full cost in insurance exchange. These community members will not be eligible for premium tax credits or cost-sharing reductions. Citizen or lawfully present immigrant children of undocumented parents will be eligible to purchase from the exchange via child-only coverage and are also eligible for premium tax credits and reduced cost-sharing. Undocumented immigrants will however be exempt from the individual mandate.
There will be verification requirements in the insurance exchange and citizenship or lawful presence must be verified for everyone. Verification will also be required in Medicaid and other public health programs.
A Women’s Right to Choose
The new law will prevent federal premium or cost-sharing subsidies to be used to purchase coverage for abortion if coverage extends beyond saving the life of the woman or cases of rape or incest. If an woman who receives federal assistance purchases coverage in a plan that chooses to cover abortion services those federal subsidy funds (for premiums or cost-sharing) may not be used for the purchase of the abortion coverage and must be segregated from private premium payments or state funds.
The House’s historical passage of the Senate’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HR 3590) following President Obama’s signing it into law will move forward this week to the Senate for the budget reconciliation process. Senate Democrats will need a simple majority to pass the package of improvements, after which it will be sent back to President Obama to be signed. Unfortunately, reconciliation is used only for budget-related issues thus excluding immigrant related provisions from being considered.
Final touches that incorporate the package of House-passed improvements (HR 4872) will increase the number of people insured by about a million totaling coverage to 32 million versus the 31 million that would be covered under HR 3590. In addition, it would also reduce the deficit by about $143 billion over 10 years; roughly $25 billion more than the Senate bill.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, National Immigration Law Center.