A new community survey reveals that even with increasing diversity in Bellevue, communities of color face barriers to quality, affordable health care.
The report, “Why We Can’t Afford to Wait: Communities of Color in Bellevue Denied Access to Care,” was released on Aug. 24 by the Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN!) and other community groups in front of Congressman Reichert’s office in Mercer Island.
Community members called on the congressman to reverse his “no” vote on America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (HR 3200) which expands access to care for low-income communities of color and immigrants.
Over the past 20 years, Bellevue has experienced a significant population increase in the number of immigrants and people of color. According to state data, while the percentage of whites in Bellevue only grew by 2 percent between 1990 and 2000, the Latino, Asian/ Pacific Islander, Black, and Native American/Alaska Native populations grew by 140 percent, 116 percent, 24 percent, and 12 percent, respectively.
Raymundo Olivas, a Washington CAN! member, shared his story as a Latino small business owner without health care. “Not having health care as a business owner is scary because one medical incident could drive me out of business or into bankruptcy,” Olivas said.
The report also found that limited-English speaking respondents were more likely to report receiving lower quality care and having less choice in where to go for care compared to those who spoke English well.
“Every person in Washington should be able to walk away from a doctor’s visit knowing their doctor heard and understood their concerns,” said Martha Bucko, an administrator with SeaMar Community Health Centers, a network of clinics providing culturally competent care to Latino communities throughout the state. “Providing an interpreter, cultural awareness trainings for staff, these are things we can do. If we are all willing to take that next step and give care regardless of color, immigration status, language, and economic status, we can make a difference in the health of all our communities.” ♦
With more than 30,000 members across the state, Washington CAN! works toward social change at the local, state, and national levels, with a focus on issues that most directly affect the lives of Washington residents. For more information, visit www.washingtoncan.org.