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Challenges and Progress: Black History Month and Affordable Health Care

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

Huffington Post (2/4/14) - We celebrate Black History Month against the backdrop of some tremendous progress, but also some very significant challenges.

As we join with President Obama in making 2014 a Year of Action, I hope you took the opportunity to join in the Google Hangout on Wednesday, February 5 at 3 p.m. to discuss our progress and our challenges as they relate to health and human services in the African American community. I was joined by Shavon Arline, the National Health Director for the NAACP, as well as Justin from Tampa, a 28-year-old from Tampa who is getting covered through the Health Insurance Marketplace for only $15 a month.

  • Click here to see Justin's story.
  • And click here to sign up or learn more about the hangout.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans like Justin are obtaining quality affordable health care coverage - many for the first time. What's more, 7.3 million African Americans with private insurance now have access to preventive services like cholesterol screenings, mammograms, and flu shots with no out-of-pocket expenses.

4.5 million elderly and disabled African Americans who receive coverage from Medicare have the right to things like an annual wellness visit with a personalized prevention plan.

And more than 500,000 young African American adults have gained coverage because the new health care law allows them to stay on their parents' plan until their 26th birthday.

Yet, we still face shocking - and unacceptable - health disparities. African Americans are 55 percent more likely to be uninsured than white Americans. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, and 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure. And the infant mortality rate among African Americans is more than twice that of non-Hispanic whites.

"Of all forms of injustice," Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once told the Medical Committee for Human Rights, "injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."

As a country, we pay dearly for these disparities. We pay in the heartbreak of the lives we have lost. And we pay in a loss of opportunity and freedom for so many of our fellow Americans.

You see, without the opportunity to live a healthy life, there is no opportunity to live the American dream or participate fully in our communities. Without the freedom which comes from having access to quality health care, there is no freedom to reach our full potential in the workforce or watch our kids or grandkids grow up. Without the security of health insurance, there is no economic security for middle-class families, and for so many other families working their way into the middle class.

Thanks to President Obama's leadership we have very real reasons for optimism that we can do something about these disparities. An estimated 4.2 million uninsured African Americans may be eligible for financial assistance to help pay for the costs of their new coverage on the Marketplace. What's more, if every state were to expand Medicaid, 95 percent of uninsured African Americans would be eligible for assistance with a Marketplace plan, Medicaid, or CHIP.

I hope you joined us on Wednesday.

And, let's work together to answer President Obama's call for every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31. You can shop for plans and enroll online at HealthCare.gov, by telephone at 1-800-318-2596, by mail, or directly through an issuer, agent or broker. You can also get in person help at https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/.

[Follow Sec. Kathleen Sebelius on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sebelius.]

Justin's Story in Summary

And in case you missed Justin's story, take a look at the above link for "No Matter What Happens," Justin's Covered For Just $15 a Month.  For a brief video about Justin's story:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxWnePQVlLI.

When Justin logged on to www.HealthCare.gov for the first time, he was looking to purchase health insurance for the first time as an adult.  Leaving the site, Justin came away with a plan that meets his needs and gives him peace for mind—all for just $15 a month.

Justin, a 28 year-old bartender living in Tampa, Florida, says that "it's intelligent to take care of yourself."

"I have a certain confidence that no matter what happens, I'm going to be covered, and I'm going to be insured," he continued.

Watch the rest of Justin's story in the video above—then follow his lead and get covered at www.HealthCare.gov

Already covered?  You can share your story by going to: http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/my-story/index.html.




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