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The Voice of the Black Community

State & National

Initiative pushes health care insurance
Campaign urges African Americans to sign up
Published Monday, March 10, 2014 11:17 am
by Herbert L. White

Laura McClettie has been making the rounds selling the benefits of health insurance.

Dee Dee Richardson, a prevention and access coordinator at C.W. Williams Health Center, discusses health insurance options with a client on Tuesday. Non-profit organizations in North Carolina are hustling to enroll uninsured to health insurance plans by the March 31 deadline mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

McClettie, an outreach specialist at C.W. Williams Community Health Center, has been meeting with community organizations and faith leaders to rally their support in getting people enrolled by the March 31 deadline mandated by federal law. 

“We still need to get those invincible young folk enrolled, because that’s the leader of everybody else getting affordable health insurance,” she said.

C.W. Williams’ campaign is part of a national push to get more African Americans – especially in the South – enrolled in health insurance plans through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“We’ve done really well at educating people and getting people enrolled,” said McClettie, who added that more than 2,000 people have inquired about enrollment at the health center. “There’s a push…we’re getting requests for organizations to assist us.”

The National Medical Association, the nation’s largest organization of black doctors, announced today it is partnering with Enroll America and African American faith groups to educate black communities about the ACA and the health insurance coverage. Nearly 21 percent of African Americans under the age of 65 do not have health insurance coverage, according to a Gallup Poll released on Monday, compared to 11.9 percent of whites and 38.7 percent of Hispanics, who can be of any race.  

More than 5 million Americans have signed up for health insurance under ACA since the Oct. 1 open enrollment period began, but federal officials have yet to release a breakdown by race. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on Tuesday that 200,546 North Carolinians have enrolled as of March 1 through the Health Insurance Marketplace, fifth most in the nation.

DHHS reported that 943,000 Americans signed up for health insurance in February, 157,000 less than federal expectations.

A recent survey by Enroll America, a national health care enrollment coalition, showed that 68 percent of uninsured African Americans are unaware that financial help is available to help pay for the new health insurance options.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 6 in 10 uninsured African Americans may qualify either for tax credits to buy coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“The churches in the African American community play a pivotal role in informing people about the Affordable Care Act and encouraging them to enroll for health coverage,” said NMA President Dr. Michael LeNoir M.D. “Our partnership with the faith community will provide our physicians with the opportunity to help the uninsured understand the long–term ramifications of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  In addition, we will provide cholesterol, blood pressure and other screenings at the church events.”

The partnership will focus on 11 states that have large numbers of African Americans and uninsured.  Five, including North Carolina, are in the South.  Enroll America has launched a grassroots campaign in those states called Get Covered America while NMA members will partner with church leaders on events in states with significant numbers of uninsured African Americans.

“Churches are the center of the African American Community and are in the forefront of educating people about the Affordable Care Act,” said Etoy Ridgnal, director of African American Engagement and Faith Based Initiatives at Enroll America.  “The African American churches in the Faith Based Initiative have a combined membership of over 17 million. Now, thanks to this partnership with physicians, individuals who attend our church events will not only learn how they can get help paying for health insurance but they will also have access to information about various diseases provided by experts.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 14 percent of African Americans, or approximately 5.5 million people, are considered to be in fair or poor health.  Approximately 38 percent of African American men and 44 percent of African American women, 20 years of age or older, have hypertension while 38 percent of African American men and 54 percent of African American women over 20 years of age, are obese. 



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