This is Part Three on the benefits of the new health reform law to Latinos. The new health reform law will significantly expand access to affordable health coverage to the nearly 31% of Latinos that were uninsured and expand coverage for those under insured. In this segment Families USA looks at how the new law will increase healthcare workforce diversity and improve data systems to help identify health trends amongst Latinos.
Increases Workforce Diversity
It is projected that within the next 32 years, people of color will make up the majority of the population.8 Latinos are vastly underrepresented in the health care workforce. Currently, Latinos make up over 15 percent of the U.S. population, but only 7.6 percent of 2009 medical school graduates and 3.6 percent of the registered nurse population. 9, 10 As health reform expands coverage, it will be increasingly important to make sure that the health care workforce is diverse and addresses the needs of all individuals.
The health reform law will fund scholarships, grants, and loan repayment programs for health care professionals, and it will provide continuing education support for health professionals who serve minority and underserved populations. It will also offer grants to improve health care services, increase retention, and increase the representation of minority faculty members and health professionals. These provisions will improve access to the health care system and enhance the practice environment by making sure that care is culturally appropriate.
Improves Data Collection
It is well known that disparities in health exist across racial and ethnic minority groups, but there is limited coordination, documentation, and analysis of data that examine the nature of health disparities by race and ethnicity. Collecting and reporting these data are crucial for identifying and monitoring the health problems that exist among Latinos and for developing the proper solutions to eliminate disparities in communities of color.
The health reform law requires that, by no later than 2012, data be collected and reported by race, ethnicity, sex, disability, and primary language for participants at the smallest geographic level possible for all federally conducted or supported health care or public health programs. This is important for identifying and examining variations between subpopulations, especially Latinos. This will help to generate reliable estimates of populations for surveillance, research, and analysis purposes. Data and analyses will also be available to agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as to other federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the public.