Commentary: Why the Affordable Care Act Is Important to African-Americans

The Obama administration's Affordable Care Act will help expand services and provide better access to health care to all Americans, but it is in the hands of the Supreme Court to decide whether the law is unconstitutional.

From the beginning, the goal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been to provide more coverage to Americans who are uninsured and to strengthen the coverage of those who currently have insurance — all in hopes to better the health of all Americans.


Thanks to the ACA, starting in 2014, it will be illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition. The ACA also makes it possible for you to attain preventive services such as cancer screenings, HIV tests, mammograms and Pap smears without incurring a co-pay or fees toward your deductible; it continues your health care even if you have lost your job; provides young people the ability to stay on their parents’ insurance policy until the age of 26; decreases costs for seniors on Medicare; and expands Medicaid coverage eligibility for low-income families.


In a recent op-ed, Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama, wrote:


Since March 2009, more than 2.4 million African-American seniors with Medicare have received free preventive services such as diabetes screenings. About 410,000 more African-American young adults who would otherwise be uninsured gained coverage due to the law. In addition, 5.5 million African-Americans with private health insurance now have coverage for preventive services without paying an extra penny at their doctor's office.


And 10.4 million African-Americans with private insurance coverage no longer face lifetime limits thanks to the new health care law — in other words, your insurance company can no longer drop your coverage at a time when you need it most.


Sound pretty good? Well, not everyone thinks so.


In the next few weeks, the United States Supreme Court will make an important decision that will affect all our lives: whether or not President Obama's Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. If it is found unconstitutional, that will negatively affect many Americans’ access to health care, especially African-Americans. And we need all the access we can get, given the current racial disparities in health.


According to the White House:
—Twenty-one percent of African-Americans were uninsured in 2009, and 20 percent of all African-Americans did not have a regular doctor, compared to 16 percent of whites.

—African-Americans are more likely to develop and die of cancer than any other racial or ethnic group.

—African-Americans were diagnosed with AIDS at 9 times the rate of whites.

—African-Americans are more likely to use the ER as a regular place of care compared to whites.

—African-Americans are more likely than both their white and Latino counterparts to report delaying or forgoing dental care and prescription drugs.
So the message is pretty clear: The more the government helps expand services and provide better access to health care, the healthier we could be. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will make the right choice — so many of our lives depend on it. 



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


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