HARRISBURG– Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus (PLBC) chairman, State Rep. Ronald G. Waters, D-Delaware/Phila., introduced two resolutions at the annual conference of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) in Atlanta. The NBCSL—whose membership includes African-American state legislators throughout the United States—ratified the resolutions condemning the Arizona immigration law, and supporting cultural competency training for health care professionals.
State Rep. Waters’ healthcare resolution stresses that cultural awareness and cultural competency are essential skills for providing quality health care to a diverse patient population, yet only a small percentage of medical schools and teaching institutions currently provide formal training.
In his resolution, Waters says “the NBCSL recognizes the role of cultural competency training in promoting communication at the provider, care institution, health plan, national and state levels is likely to contribute to success in reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the receipt of high quality care.” Further, “the NBCSL calls on states to require healthcare professionals, in order to be eligible to receive or renew licensure, certification or registration, as applicable, to submit evidence to the appropriate state board that the professional has successfully completed the board’s requirements for instruction or continuing education in cultural competency.”
The resolution also urges state medical boards to consider problems of race and gender-based disparities in health care treatment decisions; approve continuing education courses addressing cultural competency in health care treatment, and consult professionally relevant and nationally recognized organizations when adopting new rules.
According to the Urban Institute, health disparities among African Americans and Latinos relative to whites cost the health care system $23.9 billion in 2009, including $700 million in Pennsylvania. Medicare alone will spend an extra $15.6 billion, and private health insurers an additional $5.1 billion due to elevated rates of chronic illness among these groups. From 2009 through 2018, it is estimated the total cost of these disparities will be $337 billion, including $220 billion for Medicare.
“The costs to treat the diseases which result from Health and Healthcare disparities represent one of the recognized areas of unnecessary and arguably avoidable healthcare delivery costs. Specifically, in certain instances both prevention and more cost efficient management of chronic disease states can significantly reduce healthcare costs,” according to Dr. Lee Kirsey, MD, co-founder of The Center for Health Improvement and Economic Development, and Michele Jones, MSW, Manager of Partnership Development and Community Relations at Fox Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
In his second resolution passed by the NBCSL, Waters condemned Arizona Senate Bill 1070, also known as the Arizona Immigration Law. Signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010, the law makes it a misdemeanor for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying the required documents, and authorizes police to ask suspected undocumented immigrants about their status. A federal court is reviewing the constitutionality of key provisions of the law.
The NBCSL resolution criticizes the Arizona law for violating the Fourteenth Amendment by interfering with federal immigration power and authority, and urges state governments and public officials to refrain from doing business with the state of Arizona.
“Arizona Senate Bill 1070 reminds us that we must remain vigilant when faced with threats to democracy and civil rights,” Waters said in his resolution. “The State of Arizona previously demonstrated a disregard for the legacy of civil rights when it became the last state of the Union to observe the Martin Luther King holiday,” Waters added. “The Arizona Law is oppressive in nature and promotes racial profiling and separatism similar to the Nuremberg laws in Nazi Germany, Jim Crow Laws in the former Confederate States and the Apartheid laws in South Africa.”
The PLBC was founded in 1973. Its purpose is to serve as an information and advocacy vehicle to advance the interests of African-American, Latino, and other minority citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The PLBC is a member of the NBCSL, which is based in Washington, D.C.