Civil Rights Movement Provides Ammo for ObamaCare

Published October 26, 2009

A recent bulletin from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that minorities in Chicago were four times more likely to be hospitalized for swine flu infections than whites. To CDC, this disparity reflects higher rates of asthma and diabetes, not genetics or a failure of health care providers to understand minority patients.

Yet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put race-based health care regimes in place more than two decades ago. And racial advocacy groups are using the same premise to push for President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

The Office of Minority Health was established in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “to improve and protect the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will eliminate health disparities.” OMH has Regional Minority Health Consultants maintaining networks that work exclusively on improving “the way patients and doctors can come together and talk about health concerns without cultural differences hindering the conversation,” defined as cultural competency issues.

This effort assumes that American blacks who speak English and have experienced Western culture (albeit through the black experience) are nonetheless vulnerable to gross misunderstanding by health care professionals from different backgrounds. Whose competence is really being questioned here? African-Americans have climbed aboard the cultural competence Ship of Health with Third World immigrants and Native Americans to lobby for affirmative action health care appropriations to eliminate the alleged problem.

Thus Public Law 105392 established the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Minority Health to advise the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health at HHS on how to improve the health of each racial and ethnic group through specific programs based upon the doctrine of cultural competency. HHS set “reducing health disparities” as a major goal of its Healthy People 2010 initiative.

Despite more than two decades of such efforts, the complaints continue. In May 2009 the NAACP and 20 other national organizations signed a letter urging the president and Congress to ensure that attention to the health disparities gap for racial and ethnic minorities is included in ObamaCare. The civil rights alliance called for “incentives to increase the number of minority doctors and nurses” in under-served communities. The alliance demanded universal health care coverage with “training to help health care providers deliver culturally competent care.”

Thus the cultural competence race card is deployed with moral impunity in calling for a government-imposed overhaul of what these organizations deem to be an institutionally racist health care system—and of course advocating additional race-based appropriations for some of its alleged victims. Meanwhile, boisterous citizens at Congressional town hall forums and patriots in the Tea Party movement are maligned as racially motivated for daring to obstruct further government interference in health care.

The health care debate in America reaches new lows when advocacy groups use race to give cover to collectivist schemes.

Ralph W. Conner ([email protected]) is local legislation manager at The Heartland Institute.