Last week, the National Medical Association (NMA) expressed satisfaction that more than 2.2 million people through Dec. 28 have selected health insurance plans from state and federal marketplaces via the Affordable Care Act.
NMA is the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States. It represents the interests of more than 35,000 black physicians and the patients they serve. The organization says it wants to see much more people sign up for Affordable Care Act coverage, including the millions of African Americans who do not have health insurance coverage.
A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 18.8 percent of African Americans under 65 years of age are without a health plan and that 14.2 percent of African Americans of all ages are in fair or poor health.
“It is absolutely imperative that we help reach the millions of African Americans, particularly the young people, and let them know why it is so important for them to have health insurance coverage,” said Dr. Michael A. LeNoir, president of the National Medical Association. “We want to take a message of hope and concern to those within the African American community and help to educate them about the Affordable Care Act. Everyone, young and old, must understand that having health insurance is an absolute necessity.”
More than 50 percent of the approximately 40 million African Americans live in the South, with the remainder living in the major urban areas of the Northeast and Midwest. Many of the states with large African American populations and with individuals who need health insurance coverage are opposing the Affordable Health Care Act and have used a variety of tactics to impede rollout of state health exchanges and the federal program, according to NMA leaders.
Texas is the largest state that has rejected the Affordable Healthcare Act, but also has 1.7 million residents uninsured, the highest number in the nation. Florida has 1.3 million uninsured low-income residents. Mississippi is the nation’s poorest state and the residents there have the shortest life expectancy. All three states, along with Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia have significant African American populations. The governors and state legislators of those states are fighting against the Affordable Health Care Act.
“Many of NMA’s physicians are in the South,” said Dr. LeNoir. “Since most of their patients are African American, we are planning to launch a major campaign to reach individuals within their communities who are uninsured to get them signed up. Our goal is to reach all those who need coverage, but we will put an extra focus contacting young people over the air waves, at community health education events and through Facebook postings and other social media tools.”