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TheRootDC
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Posted at 09:20 AM ET, 07/03/2012

‘Obamacare’: Just what the doctor ordered

Reynolds is an ordained minister, a contributor for TheRootDC and the author of six books, including “Out of Hell and Living Well, Healing from the Inside Out,” a spiritual biography which describes her personal battle with addiction and the program she launched to help others.


President Barack Obama embraces Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the White House after he signed the health care bill. (Charles Dharapak - AP)
President Obama has written millions of seniors, working poor, middle class Americans and African Americans a prescription for longer and healthier lives. The Supreme Court has sanctioned the heart of the president’s 2010 Affordable Care Act. But the angry crowd from the right wants to tear it up.

What the naysayers don’t understand is that the Affordable Care Act is not just about politics. It’s about life and death.

The Affordable Care Act expands health-care coverage for low-income Americans. It enables everyone to receive recommended preventive services at no cost and expands community-based primary and preventive care. It prevents insurance companies from refusing to cover those with pre-existing conditions, and it enables young adults to continue receiving health insurance coverage through their parents until age 26.

While the basics sound innocuous, they are a response to an urgent message. According to a recent study by Families U.S.A., a health-care advocacy group, 26,100 people between ages 25 and 64 died prematurely because of a lack of health coverage in 20l0. The report, based on a methodology developed by the Institute of Medicine, also found that between 2005 and 2010, nearly 4,500 deaths were caused due to a lack of health care in the District, Virginia and Maryland.

Seniors too often have to split pills or skip dosages of life-saving drugs because of Medicaid prescription drug gaps called doughnut holes, when seniors must pay for medication out of their own pockets. By starting to close the doughnut hole, 5.3 million people with Medicare Part D have saved $3.7 billion since the law was enacted. And more than 2.2 million people with traditional Medicare benefited from the new Annual Wellness Visit in 2011, according to the AARP.

Moreover, since the law was passed, 2.4 million black seniors with Medicare have received preventive services such as diabetes screening and 5.5 million black Americans now have coverage for preventative health care services without additional cost sharing according to reports released by the Department of Heath and Human resources.

Beginning in August, women of all income brackets will be able to obtain contraception, annual well-woman visits, screenings for sexually transmitted infections and gestational diabetes, breast-feeding support and supplies, and domestic violence screenings without any co-pays or deductibles. The act also prohibits insurance companies from charging women higher premiums than men for the same insurance coverage and from denying women health coverage for “preexisting conditions” such as breast cancer, pregnancy and domestic violence.

Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, president of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, calls the act a major victory for African American women. She estimates that under the law, about 5.5 million black women have already received expanded, no-cost preventive services in 2011, such as Pap tests and mammograms. Also, about 440,000 young black adults have obtained health insurance by staying on a parent’s health insurance.

David Bositis, senior research director for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, says about 36 percent of African Americans have no health insurance vs. 12 percent of whites. Because blacks suffer from hypertension, diabetes and cancer at virtually double the rates of whites, insurance companies would often “cherry pick,” or exclude those with medical problems.

Bositis asked, “I wonder why those who are fighting this law do not care about the high death rate and high rates of the illnesses of black Americans?”

Indeed, the health-care debate cannot be just another Washington power trip. The status quo of 50 years has been broken, but a bitter, hostile divide remains. How else would you describe a movement that is demanding that the sickest who die the quickest suffer needlessly in one of the wealthiest nations in the world?

Some experts, however, argue that the law does not go far enough. Clark Newhall, director of Health Justice, advocates a single-pay system such as Medicare for everyone. “Medicare for people over 65 is paid for by taxpayers, government administered, allows patients to choose their doctors with a overhead of 3 percent. Private insurers sometimes operate with 20 percent or more overhead and have to return a profit. One day, you will see Obamacare is primarily a bailout for the insurance companies.”

“Doctor”Obama’s prescription may not be a cure-all for the nation’s health-care problems, but in this political climate, it is a lifesaver. Not bad for a long-awaited start.

Related content:

Obama’s health-care victory: a ‘yes we can’ moment

By  |  09:20 AM ET, 07/03/2012

 
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