Jeannette DeJesus, executive director of the Hispanic Health Council, picturedHealth care professionals, community organizers and advocates were asked Tuesday to embrace the Hispanic Health Council’s report on “Latino Health in Connecticut.” President of the Universal Health Care Foundation Juan Figueroa and Fernando Betancourt, executive director of the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, asked stakeholders to use the report as an organizing tool and become partners in an agenda to change health care policy and practice in the state.
The report released at the Hispanic Health Council’s headquarters in Hartford found Latinos account for about 40 percent of the states uninsured population. The uninsured population is estimated at about 400,000. This widespread lack of health insurance is one of “the most urgent health problems facing Latinos today, and is a major contributing factor to poor health outcomes and premature death,” the report concluded. The report investigated a sampling of 10 different diseases from asthma to oral health to sexually transmitted diseases. It concluded there were pervasive inequities experienced by Latinos. For example, cancer incidence rates are lower among Latinas than white women, however, Latinas are more likely to die from breast cancer. And Latino children are hospitalized at a rate five times higher than that of white children. In addition to the inequities the report found a lack of adequate data on Latino health. Figueroa said the quality and the quantity of data is important in this debate. In Maine and Vermont, two states that already have universal health care, “they’ve seen fit to collect accurate data so they can plan around health care data in the state,” Figueroa said. Figueroa ended his remarks with a call for “Universal Health Care in 2007.“Will state’s politicians answer the call?While supportive of universal health care state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford, wasn’t certain it would pass this year. “I would like to say yes,” she said Tuesday after the presentation of the report. But instead she said, “We’ll see.” Some Democratic leaders have been supportive of passing a comprehensive universal health care policy, while others like Speaker of the House James Amann, D-Milford, has decided to focus on just the uninsured children in the state. In November a week after the election, Amann said at he minimum by the end of the 2007 legislative session every child in the state will have access to affordable health care through the Husky Program. What about the group of 19 to 30-year-olds that account for one of the largest groups of uninsured or underinsured adults in the state?“One of the first bill’s out of the box will deal with uninsured children, which is an easy sell,” Amann said. Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, has said the only way the state is going to be able to stabilize the cost of the uninsured is by addressing the problem with the uninsurance issue amongst the adult population, which accounts for the rising insurance premiums across the board. He said if we just insure kids and don’t take a look at the entire health care system then “we’ll just be back where we started in a few years.“When asked last Friday if she would support a universal health care system, Gov. M. Jodi Rell said, “It’s not universal health care, it’s universal health care access.” She said in order to address the issue the state Bond Commission bonded $25.8 million in October to equip community health centers in the state. She said this would allow them to serve 85,000 more patients. The estimated number of uninsured is 400,000. She said she also reallocated $1 million from Husky in order to enroll more children in the states low-income insurance program. A report commissioned by the Department of Social Services found many on the HUSKY insurance plan were unable to get appointments with doctors that accept the state health insurance. The study found only 26 percent of new HUSKY enrollees received calls back from a doctor’s office to set up an appointment, 74 percent did not receive calls back. Betancourt ended the event Tuesday with a story about a legislator who had always opposed dual-language programs. He said the legislator sat in his office for two hours and agreed with all the supporting data, but in the end said he still wasn’t going to vote for it. He said the same goes for universal health care. “If we don’t win this time, we’ll win next year.”