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Enrollment Numbers for ACA Show the Importance of Affordable Health Insurance Among African American Communities

The recent community outreach initiative held at the DC Health Link facility in Washington, DC between January 19th and 24th was just one of many programs and recent articles calling attention to a lack of health care coverage among minority groups — especially for African-American men.

As The Huffington Post notes, the federally-funded Affordable Care Act (ACA) has provided health care coverage for over 15 million people since it was signed into law last year, and over seven million people have signed up under the program in this enrollment period alone (which is open until February 15th, 2015).

To say that the ACA has had a major impact on the country’s African-American communities would be a huge understatement. The number of uninsured African-Americans (of working age) has dropped by 30% due to the ACA, including over 1.7 million Americans who signed up for their own insurance plans during the first enrollment period, and about 500,000 young adults who gained health care coverage through their parents’ plans.

In addition to positive enrollment numbers, as the Michigan Chronicle reports, “the Affordable Care Act is helping to change the way many in African-American communities think about their health [and] the need for coverage.” Programs and community outreach efforts, like the one recently offered by DC Health Link, are finding more opportunities to discuss difficult health care topics and reach specific demographic groups, like African-American males, who are often absent in health care discussions.

DC Health Link’s recent outreach, for example, focused on providing information about financial programs that help low-income families pay for insurance premiums — something that sounds very simple, but which has a huge trickle-down effect on the community:

  • People with limited incomes have often noted that these high premiums were the reason they chose — or were essentially forced — to opt out of health care insurance.
  • Without insurance, it’s harder to find affordable preventative care, causing those people to ignore health concerns until those concerns are serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room (which costs, on average, at least $1,500 per visit).
  • Considering that preventative services — regular mammograms, for example, or prostate exams — often address health care issues that are difficult to discuss it’s been all too easy for the country’s health care system to overlook the essential needs of millions of Americans.

Now that the ACA has allowed for wider heath care coverage and less discrimination regarding preexisting conditions, it’s estimated that more than 7.8 million African-Americans have access to preventative services, with little or no out-of-pocket costs. And even better — this number is only continuing to rise every day.

For more information on the Affordable Care Act or to sign up for an insurance plan, visit HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 before enrollment ends on February 15th.

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