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Racial inequalities in health care must be addressed

It may be easy to think that with the results of the last presidential election, racial equality has finally been reached. A new report, however, shows that this thinking is premature.

A report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released before the House’s vote on the health care reform bill could shed light on an already complex and heated debate.

The report illustrates the disparity between racial groups in the U.S. in their disease rates and ability to obtain health care. According to the report, members of some minority groups are nearly 300 percent more likely than whites to be uninsured. This is an example of why health care needs a change of perspective.

Blacks are the most likely to develop cancer – as much as 50 percent more likely for some forms. Hispanic and Vietnamese women are twice as likely as white women to contract cervical cancer. Minority groups also have a higher rate of obesity, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

Minorities suffer from reduced access to treatment and preventative routine health care compared to white Americans, which results in more visits to emergency rooms. Blacks make trips to the emergency room nearly twice as often as whites.

Colleges and businesses have been using race as a criterion to promote fairness and equal opportunity through affirmative action. But it seems that health care represents another form of discrimination: economic discrimination. This must be questioned. Life is the first unalienable right in the Declaration of Independence. It should be equal for all.

Opponents of the health care bill preach about the need to reform responsibly and correctly, but now there is an imperative to get it done sooner.

The Democrats should capitalize on the political momentum they hold in Washington with the bill passing in the House. It’s wise to make sure the reform goes through quickly. Republicans argue that hastily passing the law could produce flaws, but no system is without problems.

Health care reform is certainly complex, and doing it responsibly is essential. However, the report shows that a quick change is needed. Politicians seemed fixed on the next elections rather than on minorities who don’t have health care.

The bill will likely hit a dead end with the Senate. It’s time for politicians to stop playing partisan games while people of every race are without health care. Americans need to rise up and lead the reform movement. That way, should Congress members refuse to listen, they could be out of a job next election.

James Bishop is a senior majoring in history.