March 23, 2016

WASHINGTON – Today, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) celebrates progress in health insurance enrollment in the six years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law. More than 20 million people across the country are now covered, including millions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AA and NHPI).

For many, enrollment would not have been possible without community resources and assistance through the process. AA and NHPI communities across the country relied on groups like Action for Health Justice (AHJ), a national coalition of more than 70 community-based organizations focused on maximizing health insurance enrollment for AAs and NHPIs. During the last three Open Enrollment periods, AHJ provided outreach, education and enrollment assistance to nearly one million AAs and NHPIs in 22 states and through 56 languages. This work has contributed to the yearly drop in AA and NHPI uninsured rates, which was nearly one in seven before the ACA. Now, only one in ten is uninsured.

The data available on enrollment presents an overall picture of success, but one that continues to need refinement. To date, the federal government has only released enrollment data by race and ethnicity in aggregate. This is a challenge for diverse communities like AAs and NHPIs who comprise more than 50 different ethnic groups and speak more than 100 different languages with varying needs and challenges. In order to advance the health and well-being of all communities, we support efforts to release disaggregated data by race, ethnicity and language preference.

Kathy Ko Chin, APIAHF president and CEO, writes in the Huffington Post about AHJ’s efforts to help newly insured families connect to care. She writes, “the next push in health care progress must be to ensure that those who have obtained their hard-earned coverage can actually use it.” One in three AAs and NHPIs have difficulty understanding, speaking, writing, or reading in English, and often materials are only available in English or Spanish. While efforts are being made to increase the availability of in-language materials, the burden of interpretation and translation often rests with groups like AHJ.

At the same time, limited English proficient communities continue to experience challenges at the front end to getting covered. Enrollment efforts would not have been possible without groups like AHJ, which used its own resources to translate materials, including a free health insurance glossary available in English and 12 Asian and Pacific Islander languages.

On this sixth anniversary of this historic achievement, we recognize the tremendous progress in health coverage for millions of Americans. Now, we must use this momentum to connect those millions to care and create healthy futures for all.