Archive for August, 2009

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights raises concerns about healthcare reform

Monday, August 24th, 2009

You would think that if the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has concerns about healthcare reform, it is because people of color are getting screwed in the process. Guess again.

Instead, the Commission has questioned whether some of the provisions provide racial preferences that are unconstitutional. Say what? It became clear where the Commission was coming from after looking at its members – four appointed by George W. Bush, two independents, and two Democrats appointed by Congress.

It is no surprise that the Commission has come under fire from the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, a coalition of 200 civil rights organizations, for becoming too political. That would seem almost a prerequisite for working in the Bush administration. Apparently the Commission has taken issue with programs in the healthcare bill that would provide incentives for physicians to practice in underserved areas by forgiving medical school debts, and education for underserved populations about public health issues.

This is exactly the kind of thing the Commission should be advocating for, instead of opposing in such a blatantly political way.

Ethnicmajority healthcare page.

Racial overtones in the healthcare debate

Monday, August 10th, 2009

In watching the television coverage of the staged protests at town hall meetings to discuss healthcare reform, it occurred to me that there are some noticeable faces missing from these mobs – those of people of color. While this demographic could be mistaken for the Republican party, who openly encouraged turning public discussion forums into angry shouting matches, I can’t help but think of the racial overtones in this debate (or lack thereof).

Many of the protesters expressed a common theme about why they are opposing healthcare reform. Almost all of these folks already have health insurance, private or public (Medicare), and it appears their main concern is that they will be footing the bill for covering the 50 million people who don’t.

So who are the uninsured? According to the Centers for Disease Control, 14.8% of the population is uninsured, including 19.8% of the working age adults (age 18-64). Amongst the caucasian population, only 10.5% are uninsured. This compares to 33.1% of Hispanics, 16.0% of Blacks, and 13.3% of Asians. Clearly people of color represent a disproportionately high percentage of the uninsured.

What the protesters fail to realize is that the insured bear the cost of treating the uninsured, which is substantial since they are getting treated by hospital ERs instead of neighborhood doctors. These costs are passed on to the insured in the form of increased premiums. So if you are already paying for the uninsured, wouldn’t you rather get a better bang for the buck by increasing competition amongst insurance carriers and stop using hospital ERs to treat minor illnesses?

Ethnicmajority Healthcare page.

Gates “teachable moment”

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Early public opinion polls seemed to indicate that the public blamed Professor Henry Gates more than Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley for their high-profile incident in Boston. I found this very curious because you would think the general distrust of the police and sympathy for Gates getting arrested in his own home would shift the blame to Crowley. Guess again.

So I asked my barber, who has had his own run-ins with the cops, which side he was taking. To my surprise, he also sided with the police officer. This, in spite of his acknowledgment that Gates committed no crime and the officer not having any justifiable reason to arrest him (which was borne out by the Cambridge Police department immediately dropping all charges against Gates).

Then I realized that, like most polls, the answers depend on how you ask the question. My barber explained that he sided with the police officer because he thought Gates got what was coming to him by challenging the cop, which he thought was utterly idiotic. In other words, his interpretation of the question was “who acted more stupidly” in this incident, and he knew only one of the participants had the power to arrest the other.

So this week CNN published its own poll, specifically asking who acted “stupidly”: Gates, Crowley, and President Obama. In its reporting, the Boston Globe botched its reporting of the survey results, saying that “58 percent of whites surveyed blamed Gates for the confrontation, 59 percent of blacks faulted Crowley”. Not true. If you look at the survey, it shows that 59% of blacks think Crowley acted stupidly and 58% of whites think that Gates acted stupidly. But the “blame” question is clearly different and more complicated to answer than the actual survey “stupidly” question. Even 44% of blacks think Gates acted stupidly.

When the survey goes on to ask who the public “sympathizes with more”, this is where the answers divide along racial lines. Blacks side with Gates 61% to 19% versus whites, who side with Crowley 45% to 29%. The African American answer is no surprise, but I think caucasian answer is illuminating. Even though 58% of whites think Gates acted stupidly and 58% think Crowley did not act stupidly, 29% still sided with Gates and another 26% did not side with Crowley.

I think the “teachable moment” here has less to do with race relations than it does the public’s attitude toward law enforcement. We would all acknowledge that being a police officer is one of the toughest jobs around and that they take more than their fair share of verbal abuse on a daily basis, however like any other profession, they have their share of “bad apples”. I don’t think Crowley is a bad apple, but when a significant percentage of white America sides with an African American for speaking out even though they think it was a stupid idea, that tells me there are more bad apples than the nation’s local police departments care to admit.

Subscribe to RSS feed