How Will Repealing Obamacare Impact Southeast Asian Communities?

Because of Obamacare, more members of our refugee community have health coverage than at any time in the history of being resettled in the United States.
— Cha Vang, HIP, Executive Director

Full Transcript

California Commission on Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs (CAPIAA)

Statement by Cha Vang, Hmong Innovating Politics

Good Afternoon Chairperson Ramakrishnan and Members of the California Commission on Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs. My name is Cha Vang and I am the Executive Director of Hmong Innovating Politics, we are a Sacramento based grassroots organization whose mission is to empower Hmong, Southeast Asian and other historically disenfranchised communities through civic participation, voting, and advocacy.  

Before I provide updates on the status of Southeast Asian American health outcomes and their access to care, I want to take a moment to express our sincere appreciation for the Commission’s support of disaggregated data for communities previously ignored or left out of government reporting. We applaud you for recognizing the immense diversity of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and for taking a stand against the misinformed, frivolous and ignorant rhetoric used by those who would rather disregard the challenges our communities face.

Without continued advocacy in support of disaggregated data it would be impossible for me to report on the tremendous progress our state has made in increasing health coverage for Southeast Asian Americans through the Affordable Care Act and the decision of our State to expand Medi-Cal coverage. Our progress has been staggering! According to the American Community Survey, among Cambodian Americans in California, the uninsured rates have gone from 21.4% in 2011 to 6.7% in 2015. Among Laotian Americans 19.1% to 9.3%. Among Vietnamese Americans from 15.8% to 5.2% and among Hmong Americans from 18.9% to 7.9%.

While health coverage for Southeast Asian Americans increased significantly in large metropolitan areas like Orange and Los Angeles County, tremendous gains were also made throughout the Central Valley including Merced, Fresno, San Joaquin, and right here in Sacramento County. To be clear, there are still significant opportunities to address health disparities that threaten our community--including increasing access to culturally and linguistically skilled physicians, advancing health education and prevention to curtail chronic diseases, and improving access to mental health care. But I think it is important to point out that because of Obamacare, more members of our refugee community have health coverage than at any time in the history of being resettled in the United States.

Unfortunately, because our communities have benefited so much from the Affordable Care Act--we also have much to lose with its repeal. Under the American Health Care Act, Southeast Asian Americans throughout the state will be uniquely devastated by this policy because of our high levels of income and access inequality. Thousands will lose Medi-Cal coverage as the federal government restricts funding and places more of the fiscal burden on California’s already volatile General Funds. Southeast Asian American small businesses will go back to forsaking coverage for themselves and their employees as tax breaks will evaporate. Thousands will face higher premiums, receive less tax-credits to help pay for insurance, and receive less coverage for what they are paying for. Thousands of people with pre-existing conditions will be at risk of being denied coverage or priced out of so-called “high risk pools.” Family members will risk their own health in delaying seeking care until their health reaches crisis levels. Elders, like my mom, will see the Medi-Cal portion of their Medicare dual-eligibility shrink--forcing higher out of pocket costs and discouraging vulnerable communities from seeking the care that they need. The risk is particularly acute in the Central Valley, home to California’s largest Hmong population, where the Center for American Progress anticipates 210,000 Californians will lose coverage.

During these xenophobic and volatile political times, HIP urges the Commission to play a leading role in preserving and improving health outcomes for the API Community along with All Californians. Specifically, we offer these three recommendations to support our communities:

First, we believe that the commission can play an important role in shaping the narrative around the individuals that will be harmed by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. In the last month, HIP partnered with Community for a New Californians to phone bank community members and collected over 150 stories of families who are willing to share their experiences and challenges. Elevating these narratives, talking about the advances we’ve made, telling the stories of our families helps put pressure on all those that voted to take coverage away from our communities.

Our second recommendation is to encourage the commission to engage with young people and create opportunities youth leadership. In California, the median age for Southeast Asian American and Pacific Islanders is considerably lower than the overall Asian American community. There is a new generation of leaders ready to take the mantle in pushing for greater equity and social justice. We say this because we have on the front lines working alongside tremendous youth here in Sacramento who are passionate about improving the conditions for their community.

Finally, since we are at the California Endowment, it would appropriate for this recommendation which is to encourage the commission to #StayLoud for an accurate and properly funded Census. In the past, this commission played a critical role in educating Californians and advocating for a complete and accurate count of our communities. Unlike any other time in recent memory, the Decennial Census is under attack. The 2020 Census must overcome drastic budget cuts, the resignation of the Census Bureau Director and the decision to move the census questionnaire online without adequate resources for outreach and engagement. The commission must take a strong position on the Census by advocating for additional resources at the federal level and on-going community engagement on the state level.

I sincerely thank you for your time and encourage you to follow-up HIP on Facebook and Instagram at @hipsacramento.