By Sylvia Mathews Burwell, HHS Secretary
Black History Month is an important time to reflect on the legacy of the African American leaders, thinkers, creators and philosophers who have made this country what it is today. From Harriet Tubman to President Obama, our black heritage is a story of courage, persistence, and indomitable strength.
Yet, despite the incredible progress that the African American community has made toward equality, these accomplishments must also remind us of how far we have to go.
Disparities still linger, and that’s especially true when it comes to health care:
- African Americans have the lowest life expectancy of any other race in this country.
- They are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure.
- African American women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer – even though they are 10 percent less likely to be diagnosed with it.
- And the statistic that impacts all of that: African-Americans are more likely to be uninsured than white Americans.
These health inequalities impact our nation’s potential – from access to education to the stability of families and communities.
But we now have a chance to close these gaps.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 7.8 million African Americans with private insurance from both inside and outside the Marketplace now have access to expanded preventive services with no cost-sharing. That includes screenings for cancer, pap smears and mammograms, well-child visits, and flu shots.
As of June 2014, 1.7 million African Americans (ages 18-64) gained private or public health insurance coverage during the initial open enrollment period. That’s a 6.8 percentage point drop in the uninsured rate over that time.
These changes are helping people all over this country get the care they need. These changes mean a doctor can find a cancerous lump with enough time to intervene. They mean a mom will learn how to manage her diabetes before it threatens her life. They mean that a dad will be able to afford the prescription that keeps his blood pressure in check. And they are helping families sleep a little easier at night, knowing a sickness or an accident won’t wipe out their life savings.
If you or someone you know needs health insurance, now is the time to act! The Open Enrollment deadline is February 15, and there is less than a week left to sign up.
HealthCare.gov—or the 24/7 call center at 1-800-318-2596—has more choices this year and that means more competition. We’ve worked hard to make the consumer experience simpler, faster, and more intuitive. And financial help is available…in fact the majority of people —87% to be exact – who selected 2015 plans through HealthCare.gov got financial assistance to help lower the cost of their premiums.
During this Open Enrollment, we have the opportunity to help our friends and neighbors get the coverage and care they need. Help us spread the word about affordable, quality coverage at HealthCare.gov.