Yesterday, I had the distinct honor of attending a White House briefing on behalf of Black and Married with Kids, to discuss the Affordable Care Act and the significance it has specifically to the African American community. I didn’t realize how much I was missing or just didn’t know altogether about the ACA. And if many of you are like me, you’re missing out on a lot of facts too.
Although I learned way more than I can squeeze into one blog post, I’m hoping that the information I share will encourage and empower you to get involved and get informed. Ready or not, October (open enrollment) will be here before we know it. So why not use our time wisely by staying on top of the facts and learning how we can benefit from the Affordable Care Act (ACT). Passing the law was really only the beginning, so we all need to work together to make sure we do our part to help implement it.
As was shared by Michael Strautmantis (Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement to the Senior Advisor), progress in the African American community is really important to the President, especially in his second term. He has had the pleasure of working with the President for two decades and has seen a lot of highs and lows with him. He emphasized that the happiest he’s seen the President wasn’t getting elected the first or second term or presidency. It wasn’t even his first or second inauguration. The happiest he’s ever seen him was the night that they passed the Affordable Care Act. The reason for that is because “elections are important, but they only give you the opportunity to do something. Elections aren’t the end of anything, they are just the beginning.”
He has seen what the lack of affordable health care can do, especially in the black communities. The chronic disease in the black communities has hit all of our families. People are going to emergency rooms to get care and not getting the regular screenings. This administration is looking to make key changes to better the health of not only this current generation, but for many generations to come. There were many facts regarding the ACA that were shared during the briefing by several speakers. The key speakers came from the US Department of Health and Human Services. We heard from Kathleen Sebelius (Secretary), Anton J. Gunn, MSW, (Director of External Affairs, Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs), Chiquita Brooks-LaSure (Deputy Director for Policy and Regulation at the CCIIO), Damon Davis (Director for the Health Data Initiative), Mayra E. Alvarez, M.H.A. (Director of Public Health Policy, Office of Health Reform), Caya B. Lewis, MPH (Counselor to the Secretary for Science and Public Health), Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE (Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director, Office of Minority Health), and Acacia Bamberg Salatti (Acting Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships).
The facts that I want to share today are what was shared by Mr. Anton Gunn in response to the frequently asked question: What is the ACA and what does it do? He drove home the point that the ACA is very diverse and complex (ten separate titles and several hundred pages to be exact), and that we need to understand that this law is significant for a wide variety of reasons. It is dedicated to improving every aspect of health care, including policy frameworks to make sure the ACA pays for itself and doesn’t add to the deficit. So here is a summary of what Mr. Gunn shared as a simplified definition of the Affordable Care Act:
1. It will expand access to coverage for millions of people who don’t have access to coverage.
The ACA will do this by allowing those people the ability to be able to buy health insurance. It will allow them access to a public program (particularly Medicare and Medicaid) for people who didn’t have access before.
2. It makes health coverage more affordable.
The ACA will do this by lowering costs of prescription drugs and lowering or eliminating the costs of preventative health services (regular screenings and visits with a primary care physician, etc.).
3. It will make sure to protects patients and consumers who purchase health care.
Think about the person who is undergoing chemo, and during their last session, they get a letter in the mail letting them know that they’ve reached the maximum cap on their policy (meaning the insurance carrier will no longer cover their chemotherapy sessions). The ACA makes sure that this will never be allowed to happen to anyone ever again.
4. The ACA focuses (think laser beam) on improving the quality of health care.
If you don’t like to breathe poor quality air, drink poor quality water, or live in a poor quality house, then you need to understand the importance of this particular focus of the ACA. Improving the quality of health care means creating a better environment for us to live in.
5. The ACA is focused on improving prevention and public health.
This is not just about getting coverage when you’re sick or making sure that coverage stays with you when you’re ill. This is about focusing on making sure people are healthy and living in healthy communities. This is about making sure that the federal government takes prevention very seriously. The ACA wants to make sure we are living the life we want to live without having to access the health care system as frequently, or in times that aren’t necessary.
BMWK — Are you clear on the Affordable Care Act and what it means for your family? What are you most looking forward to once the ACA is implemented in 2014, or what questions do you still have?