Photo courtesy of Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) FAvebook page

Photo courtesy of Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) FAvebook page

WASHINGTON – The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) welcomed today’s introduction of the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2014 (HEAA). The bill, introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, builds on the strengths of the health care reform law and provides additional tools to address health and health care disparities affecting minority and underserved communities.

“We commend Rep. Roybal-Allard and the Congressional Tri-Caucus for their commitment to health equity for all communities,” said Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of APIAHF. “The Health Equity and Accountability Act complements the historic Affordable Care Act to create a more equitable health care system that truly meets the needs of all.”

“The HEAA is what is needed to ensure our health system responds to the country’s changing demographics,” said Priscilla Huang, APIAHF policy director. “The bill calls for targeted reforms to improve the health of subpopulations of communities of color that face additional barriers based on immigration status, disability, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, geographic location and limited English proficiency.”

Since the 108th Congress, the Congressional Tri-Caucus – comprised of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus – has led reintroduction of the bill. The HEAA of 2014 provides a comprehensive and strategic plan to eliminate health disparities and improve access to care for the nation’s diverse and underserved groups. The HEAA builds on the reforms implemented by the ACA to address a wider spectrum of health equity concerns including: immigration status-based barriers to care; data collection and reporting; culturally and linguistically appropriate health care; improving health outcomes for women, children, and families; mental health; high-impact minority diseases and social determinants and environmental justice.

The HEAA would remove the archaic five-year bar on coverage for public health programs for lawfully present immigrants. In addition, the bill would restore Medicaid eligibility to COFA migrants from the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, who are free to work and live in the U.S. without restriction. Despite working and paying taxes, COFA migrants have been ineligible for coverage since 1996 when federal law rendered them ineligible. As a result, they face significant barriers to accessing basic health care.