Thomas Duncan: African-Americans will benefit greatly from Obamacare

obama-header2African-Americans will benefit greatly from the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, as a disproportionate percentage of blacks will become newly eligible for healthcare coverage. A significant proportion of African Americans live in urban areas that are considered “food deserts” such as the City of Detroit, where major grocery stores are limited n number. Indeed, in many cases members of these communities are often forced to buy groceries from gas stations and limited markets (i.e., the corner store); thereby compromising the quality of available food.

Moreover, due to certain socio-economic factors as well as culturally-driven poor eating habits, African Americans have some of the highest rates of debilitating and fatal diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity in the United States.

But now, Obamacare will open the door to preventive care, primary care, and strategic specialty care for millions of African-Americans and others. With the larger pool of Americans eligible for Obamacare, insurance companies are working to reduce their costs for Medical Loss Ratio by implementing varied and robust wellness and preventive care initiatives. Such initiatives are being implemented both through “boots on the ground” measures as well as via technology.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, our nation’s healthcare system was discriminatory to both lower- and middle- wage workers. Consider that a person could earn more than Medicaid allows to be eligible for the insurance program, but still not have enough money to buy health insurance by themselves. Most of the employers for these people could not afford to pay health insurance premiums for them (even if they did cover a substantial portion, many of the employees could not afford the remainder of the premium).  Compounding the issue of affordability, was the consistent upward trend of the actual cost of health care delivery that had been pushing up healthcare insurance premiums.

Obamacare will provide coverage to the 32 million Americans who are currently not covered. Medicaid will also be expanded to include 17 million uninsured Americans who are falling between the definition of being able to afford insurance and being able to qualify for Medicaid. The majority of the remaining 16 million people who make between 100 percent and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (that’s $30,000 to $96,000 for a family of four) will qualify for subsidies. Everyone who does not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare will be able to select a health insurance plan from the Obamacare Insurance Exchange. This will enable everyone to select the health insurance plan which is best for them.

To raise communities from poor health conditions, we must raise their level of health education which means having the members actively engaged in behavior that will improve health outcomes; while health plans must be locally engaged with a high level of frequency via on-the-ground outreach with that community. Having community members and providers working together will achieve the most positive results for everyone

Another benefit of Obamacare for African Americans is the entrepreneurial opportunities being created.  Trusted Health Plan is the only operating majority-owned African American Medicaid Managed Care Organization in the US.  Due to Trusted Health’s composition, it is uniquely positioned to assist in improving the healthcare of African Americans.

An overhaul of our nation’s health care system was long overdue as more and more people in the U.S. were slipping through the cracks — with 32 million folks not receiving coverage. With the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act more Americans will have access to health care as our nation and the health care industry provide coverage for all Americans.

In addition, Obamacare is changing the healthcare industry in a positive way, as it will now be subject to federal regulations which will assure that everyone is treated fairly and equally. Further, rates will be monitored to make sure that most of the premiums you pay will go towards providing health care and not insurance company profits and administrative expenses, including multi-million dollar insurance company executive salaries. No longer will health insurance companies be able to charge exorbitant rates, deny or limit coverage, and pick and choose the healthiest while making life difficult for those with debilitating conditions.

As the government and its public and private partners focus on execution, small-business owners and eligible Americans should become students of the new laws so they can optimize their utilization. There will be more individualized health care for more folks as health care for all is expected to improve the innovation of physicians, hospitals and insurance companies by encouraging and rewarding better health care outcomes, more home and community based medicine, and less unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

Thomas Duncan is CEO of Trusted Health Plan (District of Columbia) Inc.

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