Health

5 key facts about the Affordable Care Act for African Americans

health careThe federal and state health insurance marketplaces will be open for the second round of enrollment from November 15, 2014, to February 15, 2015. For information on how to enroll, visit www.HealthCare.gov. The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, has helped millions of uninsured Americans—especially African Americans—gain affordable, high-quality health care coverage. As enrollment for 2015 coverage begins, here are five facts to keep in mind about the effects of the ACA on the African American community.

1. The Affordable Care Act has led to a significant drop in the number of African Americans who are uninsured. Health care reforms associated with the ACA reduced the percentage of uninsured African Americans from 24.1 percent to 16.1 percent between 2013 and 2014.

2. The passage of the ACA has greatly expanded access to quality health care for the African American community. Nearly 6.8 million African Americans have become eligible for health coverage since the implementation of the ACA due to Medicaid expansion and the financial assistance available to qualified individuals.

3. Increased funding for community health centers through the ACA will have a substantial impact on the African American community. The ACA has allocated approximately $11 billion to fund community health centers, enabling them to increase the number of patients they serve. Nearly 25 percent of these patients are African American.

4. ACA provisions provide access to preventive care at no additional cost; this may help curtail African American health disparities. African Americans currently suffer from a litany of health disparities. For example, their infant mortality rate is 2.3 times higher than that of non-Hispanic whites. African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer than the larger U.S. population, even though they are less likely to develop the disease. Access to preventive care can help reduce this disparity, as earlier detection decreases the likelihood of death.

5. African American women are eligible for additional insurance benefits, which can lead to better health outcomes. The ACA requires that close to 5 million African American women enrolled in private health insurance have access to HPV testing, mammograms, and prenatal care, among many other preventive services, at no additional out-of-pocket cost.

Although African Americans are signing up for the ACA at impressive rates, a large percentage of them remain uninsured. It is clear that the African American community suffers from a lack of health care access, and there has never been a better time to enroll. With regulations in place to keep premiums more constant and rules that require more comprehensive benefits, people wary of insurance companies can take comfort in the ACA’s consumer protections. Enrollment through the exchange will support a policy that is providing millions of Americans with increased access to health care.

Emmanuel Hurtado is a former Progress 2050 intern and a student at Claremont McKenna College.

January 28, 2015
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