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What Health Reform Means for African Americans

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From Michael Blake,  Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement coordinating African-American outreach:

Health care is very personal for me.

I was born with a heart murmur, my mother is a breast cancer survivor but lost her mom at the age of 3, an aunt who lost her life due to cancer, and my dad cleaned hospital rooms for 29 years.   But because of having access to health care, my family’s dreams were not deferred.  I am sure that I am not the only African-American who has received a second, third and fourth chance of realizing my dreams due to being healthy enough to realize them.

But for too many African-Americans, lack of access and unaffordable health care meant that their dreams were not realized.

Now, due to President Barack Obama, Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Democratic Members of Congress, health care is no longer an unmet promise for African-Americans and all Americans, it is now the law of the land.

But, you ask – how does health care help me? How does it help my family? I am glad that you asked.

Dr. Garth Graham from the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Minority Health has posted a new video on WhiteHouse.gov/HealthReform that discusses some of the many benefits of the Affordable Care Act for African Americans.  Before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the African American community struggled more than most as a result of our broken health care system.  As Dr. Graham points out, African Americans are nearly twice as likely to be uninsured than the rest of country and are consequently more likely to experience serious issues with medical bills and medical debt.

But since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law just over six months ago, several patient protections have taken effect, putting a stop to insurance companies’ worst practices and giving African Americans more control over their health care.

And in the years ahead, the Affordable Care Act will continue to improve the health care system for the African American community and all Americans. Under the new law:

  • Coverage will be extended to 32 million people, and many individuals and families will have receive tax credits to make it easier to purchase insurance. This will help reduce disparities in accessing high-quality health care for African Americans who are roughly twice as likely to be uninsured as the rest of the population.
  • Today, if you’re uninsured because of a pre-existing condition, you can get insurance through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. In 2014, insurance companies will be prohibited from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions, a new rule that that will greatly benefit minority communities that have a higher rate of chronic illness.
  • If you join a new insurance plan, insurance companies will be required to provide preventive services like tests that can help identify and stop breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease and other diseases that disproportionally impact African American communities without charging you any additional out of pocket costs.
  • If you’re a young adult, you may be able to remain on your parent’s insurance plan up until your 26th birthday. Up to 2.4 million young adults could gain coverage through this provision of the new law.
  • For seniors, you should know that the Affordable Care Act continues to protect your guaranteed Medicare benefits, while taking important steps to fight waste, fraud and abuse. The new law will also close the coverage gap known as the “donut hole” completely by 2020. This year, seniors who fall into the “donut hole” will receive $250 rebate checks. In 2011, seniors in the donut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on their brand name prescription drugs.

Check out the video.

You can read more about how the Affordable Care Act will affect you and our current insurance options at healthcare.gov, and you should check out this fact sheet on how the law directly benefits the African American community.

Health care is a personal thing for me.  I am sure that it is very personal to you as well.

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