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The Affordable Care Act and African Americans

July 15, 2014

The Affordable Care Act is making health insurance coverage more affordable and accessible for millions of Americans. For African Americans, like other racial and ethnic minorities, the law addresses inequities and increases access to quality, affordable health coverage. The Affordable Care Act invests in prevention and wellness, and gives individuals and families more control over their care.

African Americans suffer from higher rates of a range of illnesses as compared to the general population. African Americans have the highest mortality rate of any racial and ethnic group for all cancers combined and for most major cancers individually, including stomach, liver, prostate, and colon cancers. Even though the rate of breast cancer incidence is 10 percent lower among African American women, they are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease. Earlier screening and detection for African American women could help reduce this death rate. Although African American adults are 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, they are 18 percent less likely than their non-Hispanic White counterparts to have their blood pressure under control. In addition, black adults are less likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have received the flu vaccine in the past year. African American adults are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. The infant mortality rate among African Americans is 2.3 times that of non-Hispanic whites; black infants are four times more likely than non-Hispanic white infants to die due to complications related to low birthweight.

At the same time, African-Americans are 55 percent more likely to be uninsured than white Americans.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, 6.8 million uninsured African Americans have new opportunities for affordable health insurance coverage. The majority, 6 out of 10 (4.2 million out of 6.8 million), of uninsured African Americans may qualify for Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or lower costs on monthly premiums through the Marketplace.

Although the annual enrollment period to get private coverage in the Marketplace is closed for 2014, enrollment in Medicaid and the CHIP is open year round. 26 states and Washington, D.C. have expanded Medicaid so far, with the federal government providing 100 percent of the funds for the "newly eligible" for the next three years, and never less than 90 percent after that. If all states took advantage of new opportunities to expand Medicaid coverage, 95 percent of eligible uninsured African Americans might qualify for Medicaid, CHIP, or tax credits to help with the cost of premiums. Visit HealthCare.gov to learn more.

Millions of African Americans across the country are already benefiting from the stronger coverage and consumer protections made possible by the Affordable Care Act:

  • 7.8 million African Americans with private insurance now have access to expanded preventive services with no cost sharing. This includes services such as colonoscopy screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, and flu shots for all children and adults.
  • Private plans in the Marketplace are required to cover 10 essential health benefit categories, including maternity and newborn care. Over 390,000 African American women in the individual market alone are projected to gain maternity coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
  • An estimated 5.1 million African American women with private health insurance now have guaranteed access to women's preventive services without cost sharing. These services include well-woman visits, HPV testing, counseling services, breastfeeding support, mammograms and screenings for cervical cancer, prenatal care, and other services.
  • 4.5 million elderly and disabled African Americans who receive health coverage from Medicare have access to many preventive services with no cost-sharing, including annual wellness visits with personalized prevention plans, diabetes and colorectal cancer screening, bone mass measurement and mammograms.
  • More than 500,000 young African American young adults between ages 19 and 25 who would have uninsured, including 230,000 African American women, now have coverage under their parents' employer-sponsored or individually purchased health plan.
  • About 10.4 million African Americans, including 3.9 million adult African American women, no longer have lifetime limits on their health insurance plans thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
  • Major federal investments to improve quality of care are improving management of chronic diseases that are more prevalent among African Americans.
  • The health care workforce is more diverse due to a near tripling of the National Health Service Corps. African American physicians make up about 17 percent of Corps physicians, a percentage that greatly exceeds their 6 percent share of the national physician workforce.
  • Investments in data collection and research will help us better understand the causes of health care disparities and develop effective programs to eliminate them.
  • Targeted interventions, such as Community Transformation Grants, will promote healthy lifestyles, lower health care costs, and reduce health disparities.
  • Increased funding available to more than 1,100 community health centers will increase the number of patients served. One of every five patients at a health center is African American.

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