One of the reasons a majority of Americans view the Affordable Care Act unfavorably may be that they simply don’t know enough about it. But according to a panel of experts who spoke at a National Action Network’s forum Thursday afternoon in Washington, D.C., African-Americans must be as informed as possible about legislation that could literally save their lives.
Georges Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the American Public Health Association, said a lot of people don’t know that the health reform bill has been signed into law and is already working. And, he added, it can “absolutely” save lives.
“About 44,000 people die every year simply because they don’t have health insurance,” he said. “The fact is we know that having health insurance improves your health security and also improves your economic security.”
According to a research brief released by the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday, 5.5 million insured African-Americans now have access to expanded preventive services such as well-child visits, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings and mammograms with no cost sharing. In addition, 410,000 young adults aged 19 to 25 have been able to stay on their parents’ health plans. In 2014, when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, approximately 3.8 million African-Americans who would otherwise be uninsured will gain access to coverage. It also will greatly expand the number of Black physicians and other health care workers.
Pamela Miller, a marketing and community investment strategist for Express Scripps, framed access to health-care insurance as a critical civil rights issue.
“If we had an issue that was called anything else but health care that robbed our communities of the lives, prosperity, future and people and intellectual capability that disparities in health care rob our community of, we would be out marching,” she said.
She added that the health status of an individual, family and community is a predictor of their future in fundamental ways, and with the right tools, chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease are preventable and manageable.
Chronic disease, particularly in the African-American community, is rampant, but much of it, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and others, are preventable and manageable with the right tools, she said, which enables people to then pursue educational and economic opportunities.
“This is a survival issue for our community and a competitive issue for the country,” Miller said.
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(Photo: Harry Sieplinga / Image Bank / Getty Images)