In New York City, politics and food go together. If you don't believe it, just take a look at a few recently proposed laws such as the soda tax. Gov. Paterson proposed placing a tax on non diet soda (diet soda would remain tax free). Need further evidence, how about the banning of trans fats? In nearby Nassau County, a proposed fast food tax would place a 2% increase on all fast food meals.
Local pols insist the measures are needed to balance the budget and "encourage people to eat better". Coincidentally, Blacks are 51% more likely to be obese than Whites according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone with a body mass index, an estimate of body fat calculated using a persons height and weight, of 30 or more is considered obese.
Blacks are also less likely to have health insurance. In New York, 22% of Blacks aged 19 to 64 have no health insurance compared to just 13% of whites in the same age category according to a study by the Community Service Society who advocates for low-income New Yorkers. Blacks are also less likely to receive preventative care and suffer higher mortality rates from AIDS and other diseases. Poverty accounts for most of the disparity along with cultural factors. High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, AIDS and obesity are top health concerns in the Black community. Deaths from AIDS is six times higher for Blacks than for Whites.
National health care reform is highly likely to benefit Black and Latino communities. Each year, in New York, public health care programs require participants to renew or re-enroll. Blacks are the most likely to be dis-enrolled (about 40%) from public health care programs like Medicaid - due to this renewal process - followed by Latinos then Whites. Asian/Pacific Islanders are the most likely to remain enrolled and maintain continuous coverage.
Medicaid requires new applicants to be finger printed and face to face applications are required. No internet, mail, phone or fax applications are accepted. Documentation of residency is also required. Many people work full-time but receive no health care benefits from their employer. These factors contribute to the lack of health care coverage amongst the poor. Increasingly, the poor of New York City includes the Black and Latino communities.
Read Part 2 of this series: The politics of homelessness in New York City