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Op/ED BWHI and National Urban League Come Together for 2019 Open Enrollment Period: African-American Week of Action

From: Linda Goler Blount, President and CEO, Black Women’s Health Imperative
            Marc C. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League

A little over a week ago the Black Women’s Health Imperative and the National Urban League, each joined forces with other national organizations to help create awareness and outreach on the 2018 Open Enrollment period that runs from November 1 2018 to December 15 2018. This week our organizations are combining our collective voices to make more Black Americans aware of, and enroll for coverage for 2019.

Even with a reduction in the number of days to enroll and a significant reduction in government supported outreach, last year over 660,000 African Americans were among the 12 million people who signed up for ACA marketplace health plans during the 2017 open enrollment period in the 39 states that use the Healthcare.gov enrollment platform.

Our organizations both understand that access to health insurance coverage is critical to addressing disparities in health outcomes among African-Americans.  We hear story after story about men, women and their families trying to make it without health care coverage because they perceive it to be financially out of reach. Without health coverage, people often forgo regular doctor’s appointments, don’t take necessary prescription medication, and delay care, resulting in emergency room visits and inpatient hospital stays that are expensive and often avoidable. As we work tirelessly to create equity and close disparities in health care for Black Americans.

We know that gaining access to health care coverage helps to change the narrative around health, wellness and in many cases financial stability for Black America. We have already seen that people who were uninsured in 2013 and gained either marketplace or Medicaid coverage in 2014 were more likely than their counterparts who remained uninsured, to report having a usual source of care, receiving an annual checkup, and getting a blood pressure screening.

There is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act has improved access to health care services for those who gained coverage through its coverage expansions. Research focusing on the first two years of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion found improvements in various measures of access to care, including affording needed follow-up care, having a personal doctor, and having access to medications.

Building upon this and ensuring even more African-American sign up during this open enrollment period is essential that people maintain their existing coverage, as well as taking advantage of recent states’, such as Virginia’s Medicaid expansion.

As you talk to consumers who wish to have coverage starting January 1 remind them that they  need to sign up by December 15.

Here’s what they need to know:

    • Financial help is available to make the coverage more affordable. 85 percent of consumers are eligible for financial assistance.
    • At healthcare.gov, consumers will immediately see the type of coverage for which they qualify. This year, it’s easier than ever to shop on mobile devices.
    • For those who prefer the phone to an online experience, help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Assistance is available in multiple languages. Call (800) 318-2596.
    • Consumers should also note that open enrollment continues through January 31; the December 15 deadline is important for coverage that starts at the beginning of the new year.

For more information on the Black Women’s Health Imperative go to: www.bwhi.org

For more information on the National Urban League go to https://nul.iamempowered.com

Sources:

https://www.cbpp.org/research/health/african-american-uninsured-rate-dropped-by-more-than-a-third-under-affordable-care

https://www.blackhealthmatters.com/clinical-trials/affordable-care-act/open-enrollment-deadline-fast-approaching/

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