For Many Black Women With Breast Cancer, Obamacare Offers Help

One African-American woman who is a breast cancer survivor says she is excited by the potential of the Affordable Care Act.

Posted: 10/15/2012 10:00 AM EDT

For Melanie Nix, the health care reform known as Obamacare is nothing more than a critical lifeline.

Nix, a triple negative breast cancer survivor, said that the Affordable Care Act, the formal name of the legislation, has a number of crucial components that will help her and other women who are dealing with breast cancer.

“I am emotional about the Affordable Care Act,” said Nix, who lives in the Washington suburb of University Park, Maryland. “Now, I don’t have to be scared about how my pre-existing condition will affect my ability to be insured. This provides me comfort. It’s exciting and life changing.”

She underscored a point that has been widely applauded by breast cancer patients. 

Under the Affordable Care Act, if a person has a pre-existing health condition, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage based on that condition. 

Equally important for Nix and others is the fact that the Affordable Care Act does away with lifetime coverage caps, which is an important component of the reform for relatively young women, like Nix.

“The Affordable Care Act eliminated lifetime limits on coverage, which is an incredible benefit for people like me,” she said, in an interview with BET.com. “I have a strong family history of breast cancer. And, when there are caps, you don’t know how long you’ll be able to get insurance coverage.”

Nix is passionate about providing support to women with breast cancer. She is a co-founder of the Breast Cancer Comfort Site, which provides support and guidance to women with breast cancer. She is a fifth-generation breast cancer survivor. She has undertaken a vigorous public speaking schedule and has produced a line of greetings cards for breast cancer patients and survivors.

She pointed out that the Affordable Care Act is likely to be of great help to African-American women, who develop breast cancer in disproportionately higher levels than white women do.

In fact, a report by the Sinai Urban Health Institute in Chicago indicated that Black women often lack information and access to preventative care. It states that poverty and disparities in preventative care are responsible for higher mortality rates among Black women.

The report said that roughly five Black women die needlessly each day from breast cancer because they lack the information and access to proper health care. 

While many of the facets of Obamacare will not go into effect until 2014, it is already having impact, Nix and others say. Under the Affordable Care Act, women on Medicare can get free mammograms, which Nix and others consider a vital provision that will encourage women to get the preventive care they need.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 6 million women received free mammograms as part of their Medicare coverage.

“This eliminates a lot of barriers for a lot of African-American women to get diagnosed early,” Nix said, “and to get the services they need after they have been diagnosed.”

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(Photo: GettyImages)

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