Commentary: Black America With and Without Health-Care Reform

As the Affordable Care Act remains in jeopardy, new studies show where the African-American community stands.

Posted: 04/17/2012 06:07 PM EDT

With the legality of President Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act now being considered in the nation’s highest court, millions of Americans await a ruling to figure out what’s going to happen with their health care. One subgroup paying particular attention, of course, is the African-American community.

Thanks to the president’s health-care reform bill, the racial disparities in America’s medical system were narrowed drastically. Prior to the ACA, for example, nearly 21 percent of African-Americans were uninsured, compared to only 16.3 percent of all Americans. With the ACA in place, however, the government estimates that nearly 32 million more Americans will have health-care coverage. Where Blacks specifically are concerned, RAND estimates that 3.8 million uninsured Black Americans will enjoy health coverage under the ACA.

Despite the ACA’s benefits, however, health-care reform still doesn’t go 100 percent of the way toward repairing the gulf between care for Blacks and whites in America. Based on the results of a National Health Interview Survey, experts have ascertained that more than 1 million uninsured white youths have been covered by the ACA, while only about 400,000 Black youths were covered.

The problem? Much of it comes back to unemployment. For a variety of reasons, Blacks are jobless more, meaning they get insurance through their employer — the leading access to health care — less frequently than others. Of Blacks who do have jobs, many have part-time gigs, which typically don’t offer adequate health-care coverage.

The consequences of what will happen if the Supreme Court rules against the ACA are far-reaching. Millions of Americans who might otherwise not have health insurance will go back to living precariously without coverage. What’s more, many of those unfortunate people will be Black.

Even with the ACA things are not rosy for African-Americans and health care. Without the law, however, things simply get that much worse.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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