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posted: 1/21/2014 5:00 AM

Asian-Americans face barriers to health care

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As we reflect this week on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember his passionate work to address racial injustice through nonviolent means. "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane," declared King in 1966. Nearly 50 years later, we have made great strides to fighting this inequality thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Access to health care is a right, and no one should be excluded because he or she speaks a different language. Navigators like Lynette Wightman from the Asian Health Coalition and May Saeng from Lao American Organization are now helping members in Elgin's Laotian community learn about and enroll in health care plans available to them for the first time. More than 4,000 individuals of Laotian descent live in the west and northwest suburban area; many immigrated here in the late 1970s as refugees. They are uninsured and face numerous barriers to receiving health care, including language and, of course, cost.

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As our nation continues to pursue health justice for all and the civil and human right to health care, we know that more work needs to be done, especially among minorities and immigrants, who are much more likely to be uninsured than the rest of the population. Asian-American health centers and community-based organizations across the nation are engaged in a national effort to increase the ACA enrollment of Asian-Americans with plans to reach over 250,000 people collectively during this first open enrollment period.

We, the Asian Health Coalition and Lao American Organization, are humbled to be part of this moment in history and to continue the legacy of Dr. King -- fighting injustice and working to bring about healthier and more equitable communities.

Ranjana Paintal

Program manager

Asian Health Coalition

Chicago

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