Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Why Health Care Reform Matters

By Doreena Wong

Health Access Project Director

The Asian American community needs health care reform.

The facts speak for themselves: One out of six adults, and one out of 10 children lacks health insurance. For Koreans, the number jumps to almost one out of three. Asian Americans are twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to have not seen a health professional in the last five years. As a consequence, many Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders suffer from health disparities such as disproportionately high rates of cancer (which is the leading cause of death in our community), heart disease, stroke and diabetes. We also account for the largest proportion of tuberculosis and chronic hepatitis B cases. Koreans are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to contract hepatitis.

Part of the reason for the large number of uninsured is that many community members are self-employed and cannot afford to purchase health insurance, given the high premiums in the individual insurance market. One study found that small businesses pay about 18 percent more for the same health insurance policy as large companies. According to a study by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, in 2007, Asian Americans owned over 1.5 million businesses and employed nearly 3 million workers in the U.S.

These facts underscore the importance and relevance of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. Although many may not realize it, Asian American employers, employees and their families will be significantly impacted by the health care reform law, through employer reimbursements and new forms of coverage.

But if you follow the news, there are many threats to the legislation, the most recent being the U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the law’s requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance and the Medicaid expansion, among other issues. The court’s decision is expected to be issued by early July. Upcoming federal and state elections in November also may affect the implementation of health care reform.

There is a great deal of confusion about health care reform, and opponents of the legislation have distorted the facts. For example, some critics have claimed it will increase the federal budget deficit, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation have estimated an overall reduction in the federal budget deficit through 2019 under the law. This doesn’t even factor in the human costs involved and the millions of lives that will be saved over time. Many individuals (including children who can now be covered under their parents’ insurance until age 26 – please see below for more examples) do not realize that they can benefit from both the changes that are already in place and the new health care system that will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

By 2014, about 32 million people will receive health insurance:  about half through the Medicaid expansion that will cover low-income persons (for example, for a family of four earning about $30,656 or less, and the other half by the newly established state exchanges, where consumers who do not have employer-based health insurance can buy affordable health insurance and receive premium subsidies for lower income households (for example, for a family of four earning less than $88,200). Specific to our community, by Jan. 1, 2014, the new health care system will cover an estimated 2.3 million Asian Americans and 162,000 Pacific Islanders who are now uninsured across the country. An estimated 1.5 million Asian American businesses in the U.S. will be eligible for the Small Business Health Options Exchange and small business tax credits. Another goal of the health care reform law is to reduce health disparities of vulnerable populations by providing funding to address chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma, improving data collection, and requiring culturally and linguistically appropriate access to health care for our community.

As for undocumented immigrants, they will not be allowed to purchase health insurance in these new state exchanges.

Although the Affordable Care Act is only a beginning towards true health care reform, it is a critical and key first step to achieve the final goal of universal health care for everyone in our community. What we need to do now is get the word out to the community, so the public realizes health care reform has the potential to improve all of our lives.

The Asian Pacific American Legal Center also wants to hear from you. Have you had problems getting health insurance or health care services from your health plan? Or have you been one of those that have benefited from the health care reform law? We at APALC would love to hear your story, and potentially assist you in finding more help. Please contact us via email: with the subject line, “Health Access.”

What you need to know about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA):

  • Children can be under their parents’ insurance coverage until age 26. About 97,000 Asian Americans have already gained coverage because of this provision.
  • Children cannot be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
  • Adults who have been denied insurance because of their pre-existing conditions can now obtain insurance through federally-subsidized state Pre-existing Condition Insurance Programs (PCIP).
  • Many preventive care services, including flu shots for all children and adults, mammograms, colonoscopies, Pap smears and other cancer screening tests, “wellness” examinations for children and seniors, and many more services must be provided without any cost to the patient. An estimated 2.7 million Asian Americans with private insurance are seeing expanded coverage under the ACA.
  • Insurance companies can no longer rescind coverage by searching for errors or other technical mistakes on a customer’s application as an excuse to deny payment for services.
  • There are no more lifetime dollar limits on insurance coverage.
  • There are restrictions on the annual dollar limit on insurance coverage for new plans.
  • Small business can take advantage of tax credits of up to 30 percent for providing health insurance for their employees. Up to 4 million small businesses are eligible for these tax credits, but many do not know about them.


Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants (DRAI)
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Monday - Friday

For more information or to apply to DRAI, please call: 

Chinese (Mandarin/Cantonese)  (213) 241-8872
Khmer  (213) 241-8877
Korean  (213) 241-8873
Tagalog  (213) 241-8874
Thai  (213) 241-8875
Vietnamese  (213) 241-8876
English/Other, Non-Spanish  (213) 241-8880
Spanish/English** (CARECEN)  (213) 315-2659
Spanish/English** (CHIRLA)  (213) 201-8700
 (213) 395-9547

*This list will continue to expand.
** Spanish assistance available through CARECEN & CHIRLA.
***We are experiencing heavier call volume than usual. We highly encourage you to call your native language phone line, the wait time may be shorter. 

Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.