Obamacare: Do Black Americans Know Enough About It?
African American rights groups pledge to increase knowledge of health care reforms
Despite House Republicans’ 33 attempts at repealing it last week, President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.
By 2014, the law will require nearly all Americans to purchase health care insurance or face a tax penalty equal to some fraction of annual plan premiums.
That could be a hard pill to swallow, particularly in minority communities, where significant percentages of Americans are without healthcare coverage. According to government estimates, one in five African Americans is without healthcare coverage.
While the Obama administration has promised aggressive education campaigns in minority communities, some health advocacy groups aren’t leaving the job to the federal government.
“(The government) could do a little more in terms of educating the public,” said Aisha Hakim, former president of the Westchester County chapter of the National Black Nurses Association in New York state.
“You’d have to be living under a rock” to be unaware of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, said Hakim, adding that groups like hers are aggressively involved in church-run health ministries and tabling at local health fairs.
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Hakim, a veteran nurse of 38 years, says it’s yet to be seen if people of color really comprehend the information that is available about the ACA.
The tax penalty, which will be assessed by the IRS, is a minimum $695 per person (no more than $2,085 per family) by 2016, when the reforms are fully phased in, according to analysis by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Public polling, before and after the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ACA, shows just under half of Americans know the key provisions of the law. A Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll, conducted two weeks ago, found that 41 percent of Americans were unaware that the Supreme Court even made a decision.
After the historic ruling, a senior Obama administration official said the White House expected an “all hands on deck” approach within the African American community, to ensure no one is without the available coverage or subjected to the penalty.
The heath care reforms were crafted to ensure no one with a pre-existing condition is denied coverage, nor dropped from his or her plan because they’ve reached an annual or lifetime care limit. If an individual cannot afford coverage or has a job that does not offer it, the government will incentivize states to step in and provide coverage at little to no cost initially.
Several high profile African American advocacy organizations have praised the court’s ruling and pledged to continue backing President Obama’s signature achievement:
“(Far) too often, patients who lack health insurance – especially patients of color – enter medical facilities late in the progression of their diagnosis. This sad reality is costing lives and costing American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary health care bills. States can now move forward in implementing health care reform with the knowledge that the Affordable Care Act is not going anywhere anytime soon."
-- Roslyn M. Brock, NAACP
"The Supreme Court decision upholding President Obama's Affordable Care Act is a breakthrough of sunshine in a long dark night of right-wing assaults on the American middle and working class. After being bombarded with divisiveness and extremism politics it is refreshing that the courts took a step towards not interfering with the health care of American people that is sadly in jeopardy as clearly addressed by the President's Health Care Act." – Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network
"This is an enormous victory for all Americans. I'm proud of the work the Urban League movement has done to advocate for these reforms, and grateful for the wisdom of the justices for recognizing the essential virtue of the law." – Marc Morial, National Urban League
“The Affordable Care Act helps to substantially reduce the number of Americans without health insurance – an important part of the broader effort to provide adequate health care to people with HIV/AIDS and ending the AIDS epidemic in the United States… Each year, 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV. Nearly half of those people infected are Black." – Phil Wilson, Black AIDS Institute
It’s these very organizations that the Obama administration hopes it can lean on to educate the African American community.
Some of the organizations have already begun developing public outreach campaigns around the ACA.
A spokesperson for the Black Women’s Health Imperative said the organization was working on a campaign specific to the ACA implications for African American women, but would not release details of the campaigns until it is finished.
The group has called the Supreme Court decision as “major victory for black women.”
"All women deserve high quality, accessible and affordable care, regardless of their health status, where they live, their ability to pay and their gender," said Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, the president and CEO of the Black Women's Health Imperative. "(The) decision will help ensure that the ACA will continue to work so that even more black women and their families can achieve health equity."
Although the tax penalty won’t phase in until 2014, Americans already benefit from $12.8 billion in private insurance rebate checks and from the security of keeping children on insured on family health plan until age 26.
For more information about the ACA, click here.
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