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Efforts to block civil rights ruling endanger Arizonans’ health

Medicine. Beautiful doctor in the hospital

We, the undersigned community organizations, have been working to advance oral health equity in Arizona. We believe that efforts by the Arizona Dental Association to block a key civil rights ruling are wrong and endanger the health of all Arizonans. The Arizona Dental Association, along with the American Dental Association, are trying to block the Office of Civil Rights’ ruling regarding Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. Section 1557 strengthens important civil rights protections that our communities rely upon. This rule provides protections for all Americans and helps to ensure that language barriers do not stand in the way of access to care.

Section 1557 builds on civil rights protections for language access under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin, which includes language access. The rule includes the longstanding principle that health care providers, including oral health providers, must take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access for persons with limited English proficiency. This is crucial for the 48,000 Asian Americans in Arizona who have limited English proficiency.

Importantly, the rule includes robust protections beyond language access and helps to ensure that a person cannot be denied health care or coverage because of their race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. Section 1557 is the first civil rights law to prohibit sex discrimination in health care. The rule protects lesbian, gay and bisexual people on the basis of sex stereotypes and protects transgender people on the basis of gender identity.

All Arizonans have been impacted by a porous health safety net and too many in our community lack access to oral health services. By placing their interests above the civil rights of community members does not align with the Arizona Dental Association’s mission to promote oral health. Asian Pacific Community in Action is ready to partner with the association to help them achieve this mission. It is time they get on the right side of history, drop their attempts to block this civil rights ruling, and work with us to ensure all Arizonans finally have access to quality oral health services. We must learn from our history that access too long delayed is access denied.

 Lloyd Y. Asato, executive director, Asian Pacific Community in Action

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez, president and CEO, Concilio Latinos de Salud

 James Hoyt, M.A., president and CEO, Esperança 

 Dorothy Lew, executive director, Pan Asian Community Alliance

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