American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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ACP-ASIM co-hosts symposium on health care access for Latinos

CHICAGO—In an effort to call attention to problems facing the uninsured, ACP-ASIM co-sponsored a Sept. 7 symposium on barriers to health care coverage and solutions to increase access, particularly as they affect the Latino community.

Speakers at the symposium, which was cosponsored by the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) and received funding from the Commonwealth Fund, explained that while the Latino population makes up 12% of the population, it accounts for 25% of the nation's uninsured. Serafino Garella, FACP, founder and board member of CommunityHealth, one of two privately-funded free clinics in Chicago that provide care for the uninsured, said that one-third of the Latino population living in the greater Chicago area is uninsured. Dr. Garella, who is also the College's Governor for the Northern Illinois Chapter, also noted that the Latino population is three times as likely as non-Latino whites to be uninsured.

Speakers at the symposium said that one disturbing aspect of Latinos' lack of health insurance is the fact that more than 80% in Chicago and throughout the nation are employed. Melinda Schriver, ACP-ASIM Health Policy Associate, noted that only 43% of Latino adults and children benefit from employer-based insurance coverage, compared with an average of 64% for all Americans and 72% for non-Latino whites.

ACP-ASIM President Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, FACP, explained at a later press conference that a lack of insurance creates some distinct health risks for Latinos. "They do not receive routine preventive care, which often results in greater complications or worse symptoms from easily treated diseases such as diabetes, asthma or hypertension," she explained. "For example, the incidence of diabetes-related end stage renal disease in the Latino population is up to six times greater than in the non-Latino white population."

At a discussion after the presentations, Chicago-area leaders identified a number of barriers to health care access for Latinos. They noted that Latinos tend to work for small businesses that do not offer insurance, that individual insurance is prohibitively expensive, and that cultural and linguistic barriers exist in interactions with physicians and the paperwork required for public assistance.

Whitney W. Addington, MACP, the College's Immediate Past President, urged symposium attendees to work together to craft solutions that will increase insurance coverage at a local and national level.

Earlier this year, a College report concluded that Latinos in the United States face greater health risks than the general population because they are less likely to have health insurance. The report and the symposia are part of the College's Decision 2000 Campaign, which is educating policy-makers, political candidates and the public about the importance of access to health care as a public health issue. More information about the campaign is on ACP-ASIM Online at www.acponline.org/uninsured/index.html.

As part of its Decision 2000 Campaign, the College will hold two more symposia on Latino access to health care this fall. The first will be held in Miami on Oct. 5; the second will be held in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 18. For more information, contact the College's Washington Office at 800-338-2746.

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