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Millions of Blacks expected to benefit

 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite sign-up problems and the constant criticism leveled against it, has benefited many U.S. Blacks and will benefit many more according to the White House and Health and Human Services officials — potentially “an estimated 7.3 million African Americans with healthcare coverage and their families,” said White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett on a recent media-only conference call, including the MSR, about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Providing access to affordable, quality health care has always been, and remains a top priority for the president and the Democrats,” said Jarrett.

She cited a new Health and Human Services (HHS) report that shows six out of every 10 uninsured Blacks, or an estimated 4.2 million, “could be eligible for assistance through Medicaid, tax credits or the Children’s Health Insurance Program” in the 25 states and the Distinct of Columbia that has expanded Medicaid “with the federal government providing 100 percent of the funds for the first three years of the program, and never less than 90 percent thereafter.”

“We encourage all the states to take advantage of the opportunity to expand Medicaid,” said Jarrett, noting that this would benefit even more Blacks. [As of January 1, 21 states are reportedly opting out of the ACA. Minnesota is not among them.] Added U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (S.C.), “These [non-participating] states are doing themselves a great injustice by not participating in the Affordable Care Act.”

Health and Human Services External Affairs Director Anton Gunn adds that the ACA website “is night and day from where it was October 1. [It is] a vastly improved website since December began. We had a lot of challenges at the beginning, but we fixed many of those challenges.

“We had over 400 bugs and software improvements that we’ve made over the last two months,” Gunn said. “We’re mindful that there is a lot more work to do and a lot of consumers who had frustration over the past several weeks, but we are working to resolve all those issues so that they can complete their enrollment and confirm that they have been enrolled in coverage.”

Jarrett noted that consumers can sign up through a 24-hour toll-free number (1-800-318-2596) or can go to Localhelp.healthcare.gov to find out where local navigators are located.

“We know that over the next three months we have remaining in this open enrollment period [open until March 31] the people want information, and they want to be able to enroll in coverage in multiple ways,” stated Gunn. “You can enroll over the phone, get your questions answered, and also can find local organizations in the community [such as] the Urban League that are helping people in different communities around the country.”

“Because of the Affordable Care Act, over 17 million children in this country no longer will be denied coverage because they may be born with diabetes or have cancer or some other condition,” adds Clyburn.

When the MSR asked why there seems to be so much information against the ACA filtering through “echo chamber” sources such as conservative media pundits, Clyburn said the White House has been putting out “positive stories pretty regularly” on the ACA.  However, he warns, “We are not going to be able to get around the echo chamber – it’s going to be out there. [Critics] are dedicated to sabotage this program…but this is nothing new. This is the same kind of outcry by the same type of people about what Medicaid was going to do. Now they are among the group [that say], ‘Don’t touch my Medicaid.”

“We know that in the first two months, 1.2 million Americans selected “marketplace health insurance plans” or they received a determination that they were eligible for Medicaid or the Children Health Insurance Program,” continued Gunn. “Nine million more completed the application process through Healthcare.gov…and are still in the process of shopping for a plan.”

Asked why young people aren’t signing up, Gunn replied, “I’ve heard that misnomer. It’s not that young people don’t want health insurance coverage, because many of them do want health insurance coverage. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the subsidies and the Medicaid expansion, six in 10 young adults can qualify for coverage for less than $100 per month.”

Both Jarrett and Clyburn insisted that despite the constant criticism, the ACA is working. “Republicans in Congress really need to stop their continuing obsession with attempting to repeal or sabotage the Affordable Care Act,” Jarrett said. “We are always willing to look at ways of exploring opportunities to strengthen [the law]. But the president as long as he is in office is not going to repeal it.”

“Just because these people in the GOP say [the ACA is bad] does not make it so,” said Clyburn.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to [email protected].

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