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National Uninsured Latinos Conference

By admin | July 14, 2006

National Uninsured Latinos Conference

Raul Yzaguirre Policy Institute

McAllen Texas
May 21-22, 2006

Drs. Olveen Carrasquillo and Jaime Torres, from Latinos for National Health Insurance, were invited panelists at this conference. Raul Yzaguirre–past president of the National Council of La Raza–is part of our coalition!

Health experts from across the country and congressional members met to discuss the issue of insurance among the Latino population during the “National Uninsured Latinos Conference” held at The University of Texas-Pan American, in conjunction with the Raul Yzaguirre Policy Institute, May 21-22.

The conference served as the inaugural event of the new Raúl Yzaguirre Policy Institute at UTPA, which will be dedicated to the advancement of Hispanic leadership and scholarship, with the goal of helping bridge the gap between the theory and practice of public policy by drawing together experts from academia, government, business, and non-governmental organizations.

Highlights of the conference included an introductory discussion on the consequences of uninsurance and the health policy challenges of covering uninsured Hispanics, followed by a panel session on the merits and the expected impact of several proposals on how to cover the uninsured.

Day two of the conference opened with a morning session featuring six panelists and Raúl Yzaguirre, a Rio Grande Valley native, as the moderator. Yzaguirre, former president and CEO of The National Council of La Raza, told those in attendance that although the Raúl Yzaguirre Institute is often referred to as a “think tank,” he desired for it to go beyond that, to be a “do tank.” He told the audience that with their help, it can happen.

Henry Cisneros, chairman of CityView and former San Antonio mayor, served as the morning keynote speaker and told attendees the lack of health insurance specifically compromises health because people are less able to get access to care that would promote prevention of certain diseases.

“This conference deals with such a timely subject and it will allow us to get ahead of the discussion and to shape the debate,” Cisneros told the more than 100 conference attendees.
Cisneros recommended five specific courses of action during his speech and said the United States should adopt a universal health care program; promote prevention strategies for diabetes, asthma and heart disease; engage the Latino population in promoting public health as a priority; encourage Hispanic students to pursue health careers; and focus policy advocacy of Latino organizations on quality health care.

“We need to create a system of insurance that recognizes the needs of all Americans and this conference has raised the urgency and priority and has shown us how to work on this issue,” Cisneros said.

Former U.S. Senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards delivered the luncheon keynote address and talked about health care and poverty in America.

“What are we going to do, not just about health care, but what are we going to do to lift up all of the families in this country and address what I think is the great moral issue of our time. Thirty-seven million Americans wake up every day and worry not just about health care coverage, but worry about feeding their children, clothing their children and having a decent place to live,” said Edwards, who is currently the director of the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I think that we – all of us collectively – have a huge moral responsibility to do something about this.”

Edwards said he supports a universal health care plan and that the nation’s current public health facilities need to be expanded.

“I think that universal health care is the solution to this issue,” Edwards said. “First, we have to have a national dialogue and be willing to do something. This is an issue that touches virtually every family in America.”

Other panelists and speakers for the conference included Dr. Kenneth Shine, executive vice chancellor for Health Affairs, The University of Texas System; Robert Mallett, senior vice president for Corporate Affairs, Pfizer Inc; Dr. Mark V. Pauly, Bendheim professor, professor of Health Care Systems, Business and Public Policy, Insurance and Risk Management, and Economics, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Elena Rios, president and CEO, National Hispanic Medical Association; Drs. Jaime Torres and Olveen Carrasquillo, from Latinos for National Health Insurance; Roberto Suro, director, Pew Hispanic Center; Al Zapanta, president and CEO, U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce; U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, TX-15; and U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, TX-16.

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