[lg policy] Atlanta: Asians find language is a barrier to care

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jul 2 13:41:18 UTC 2009

Asians find language is a barrier to care
By Shelia M. Poole

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

When doctors told Byung Kim and her husband that they needed to buy
health insurance, they weren’t sure where to look. They eventually
settled on a provider but found out later the policy did not cover
some of his medical care. Kim, who owns a small restaurant in Union
City, wonders now if language played a role. Kim, a native of South
Korea, speaks little English. Her husband speaks even less.

“There were a lot of barriers dealing with the insurance company,” she
said, speaking through an interpreter. “I’m not sure we got the best
coverage. I couldn’t explain everything, and I couldn’t understand
their explanation.” Kim told her story Tuesday during a meeting of
community leaders and health care reform advocates at the Center for
Pan Asian Community Services in Doraville. The meeting was organized,
in part, to raise awareness of problems Asian Americans encounter in
accessing the health care system and also to push for greater
participation in the national debate over health care reform.

“We know that the current health care system is fragmented and that
people are falling through the cracks,” said Lindsay Romasanta,
program coordinator for CPACS. “As the nation looks toward health care
reform, it’s important that all people, including Asian Americans, are
considered in that change.” A 2008 study by the Kaiser Family
Foundation found large health disparities within the Asian community
in terms of health insurance coverage and access to care. The
proportion of non-elderly who are uninsured varies greatly, the study
found. For instance, 31 percent of Koreans lack insurance (a figure
that some put as high as 50 percent), compared with 21 percent of
Vietnamese and 12 percent of Japanese.

Koreans are also the group least likely to have employee-sponsored
health coverage (49 percent), and Asian Indians have the highest rate
of employer-sponsored insurance (77 percent), according to the study.

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