By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
Black Americans continue to face serious disparities in education, employment, and in economic development. While over 45 million Black Americans have made some type of progress during the past seven years of the Obama Administration, there is still much more to be done to end the vast racial and socioeconomic differences between Blacks and Whites in the United States.
One challenge, however, where there has been significant improvement is the issue of healthcare insurance coverage for Black Americans as a direct result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). More popularly known as ObamaCare, this federal legislative achievement by President Barack H. Obama did not happen without conservative opposition and controversy. But the growing health benefits to all Americans because of ObamaCare, and in particular for Black Americans, is undeniable.
During President Obama’s recent weekly address to the nation, he detailed the quantitative progress and qualitative impact of the Affordable Care Act. President Obama stated, “For decades, too many working Americans went without the security of health insurance — and their financial well-being suffered because of it. We’ve begun to change that. As the Affordable Care Act has taken effect, we’ve covered 17.6 million Americans. Since 2010, the uninsured rate has decreased by 45%. And for the first time, more than 90% of Americans are covered.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services posted the following list of achievements of the ACA with specific reference to Black America:
• Last year, an estimated 6 in 10 uninsured African Americans qualified for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), or lower costs on monthly premiums through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
• Many shoppers found coverage for less than $50 a month and nearly 7 in 10 found coverage for less than $100.
• 7.8 million African Americans with private insurance now have access to preventive services like mammograms or flu shots with no co-pay or deductible
• More than 500,000 African American young adults between the ages of 19 and 26 who would have been uninsured now have coverage under their parents’ plan.
• 2.3 million African Americans (ages 18-64) gained health insurance coverage, lowering the uninsured rate among African Americans by 6.8 percentage points.
• If all states took advantage of new opportunities to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, 95 percent of eligible uninsured African Americans might qualify for Medicaid, CHIP, or programs to help lower the cost of health insurance coverage in the Marketplace.
Not having health insurance will not only cause you to suffer financial harm, but also the status of your health will be put in increased jeopardy and difficulty. Over a year ago, I asked various African American physicians about their professional opinions about the impact of ObamaCare on the Black community. Last week, I asked again the same physicians their opinions about what progress has been achieved during the past year. Every Black doctor reported to me that ObamaCare has had a net-positive impact on helping to improve the overall health status of the Black American community.
My sister, Dr. L. Francine Chavis of the Granville Health System in our hometown of Oxford, North Carolina stated, “Because of the ACA, I now see many more African American patients at a point where medical care can help them immeasurably. Having health insurance coverage, many for the first time, is an important factor.”
We, therefore, will have to make sure that our elected officials in the Congress of the United States are adequately informed about the critical positive difference that ObamaCare has made and it making to sustain and improve the health of Black America. We should oppose all those who want now to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The health of our families and communities is at stake. We cannot afford to let anyone or anything take us backward. Of all our current disparities, our health has to be paramount. We are making progress, but the negative winds of regression are blowing strong. During the current Open Enrollment period for the ACA, November 1, 2015 to January 31, 2016, for more information on how you can get affordable health insurance go to Healthcare.gov, or call 1-800-318-2596.
We agree with President Obama’s assertion, “After all, this country is at its best when we look out for each other. And together, we can help more Americans get the security that they and their families deserve.” For Black Americans, the security of acquiring and maintaining healthcare insurance is vital and a critical priority. Nothing is more important than our health.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.