I was going to call this post: “The Republican Conspiracy to Kill Black People Through Healthcare Reform Repeal.” But in this new Age of Aquarius where love and civil discourse reigns, I’m trying to be good.

On the one hand, this repeal vote yesterday was incredibly cynical on the part of Republicans. It has no chance of going anywhere — it will die in a Democratic Senate and even if it didn’t, the Prez would veto it. It’s dead on arrival. Plus even if they actually had the juice to get it through the Senate and veto-proofed it, once Americans learned what had been taken from them, well, the GOP would have a lot of explaining to do. But they’re not done yet. We will have to fend off attack after attack on our nation’s healthcare reforms.

Fact is, only insurance company profits benefit from the current Republican vision of reform. What they call “Obamacare” is actually leveling the playing field to put more power in the hands of the people and make sure more people get better healthcare. The Affordable Care Act (its actual name) will lower the deficit, increase market competition, lower premiums and ensure greater access. You’d think Republicans would be all over that. Watch the white board video above for more deets on why healthcare reform is a good thing.

African-Americans have been hit especially hard by the economic downturn. The national unemployment rate has recently dropped to its lowest rate in 2 years from 9.8% to 9.4% thanks in part to Obama’s economic and job-stimulating policies.  But let’s take a closer look at those numbers: it’s 8.5% for whites and a whopping 15.8% for black folks. But that’s only half the story. From Africana Online Jan 11, 2011:

When you look at underemployment, the crisis facing our nation becomes even more apparent. Underemployment counts jobless people along with those who are working part-time but seeking full-time work, or those who have given up the job hunt but are still willing to work. According to an analysis of government data by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, African-American underemployment rate was just under 25 percent last year while white American underemployment rate was about 15 percent.

So we’re talking about as many as almost 40% — FORTY PERCENT — of African-Americans — the unemployed and underemployed — who may not have adequate access to healthcare. The situation is even more acute among younger people where unemployment is at its highest.

Look the bottom line is that the Affordable Care Act is good for all Americans and it’s great for African-Americans who are disproportionately suffering from America’s failure to address serious problems in the healthcare system. Problems that tend to lead, let’s say, to your aunt’s foot getting cut off due to “the sugar” rather then her receiving a sensible preventative course to manage diabetes. Or maybe 8 year old Boo hasn’t seen a doctor nor a dentist for too long because his daddy’s outta work.

Healthcare is about real people’s real lives. This is a prime example of how Republicans are alienating minorities for the long term — are they completely tone-deaf and insensitive to the help we need now? I mean, I could go all conspiracy theory here but really I think it’s clear that Republicans are choosing the short term handouts and donations from insurance companies over the lives of Americans. It’s that stark. Meanwhile, let em call it “Obamacare” all they want. It will backfire on them as people figure out just who’s had their back all this time. Here are just a few of the updated healthcare benefits that Republicans are working overtime to take away from black families after the jump:

The Affordable Care Act expands insurance coverage by a number of mechanisms the some examples include establishing the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, which is working to  make health insurance coverage available to individuals who have been uninsured for at least six months and have been denied health insurance because they have a pre-existing condition. By 2014, this program will end and will be replaced by new health insurance exchanges. Also by 2014 Medicaid will be expanded  to cover  individuals under age 65 with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level. In 2014, using 2010 federal poverty guidelines, 4.1 million African Americans making less than $14,403.90 and a family of four making less than $29,326.50 will be eligible for Medicaid. In addition, individuals without dependent children or who are not pregnant will now be eligible for Medicaid once this provision is enforced beginning in 2014.

Coverage for preventative conditions many of which disproportion ally impact African Americans.  As of September 23, 2010, requires health plans to cover certain preventive and immunization services without charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance. This applies only to care delivered by in network health professionals. Specifically, new health plans will have to offer consumers 45 free screenings and other preventive services, similar changes will affect Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries Seniors enrolled in Medicare will no longer have to pay for preventive services starting January 1, 2011. Additionally, the health reform law provides new funding to state Medicaid programs that choose to cover preventive services for patients at little or no cost starting January 1, 2013. These include (note from Jill, I’ve bolded the ones that impact African-Americans especially):

Blood pressure testing

• Cardiovascular screening

• Cervical cancer screening

Cholesterol measurement

• Colorectal cancer screening

• Depression

Diabetes screening

HIV testing

• Immunizations and vaccines

• Mammograms

Obesity screening and counseling

Screening newborns for sickle cell disease
Already in 2010, adults enrolled in Medicare Part D received a tax-free, one-time rebate check of $250 when they reached the Medicare drug coverage gap or “donut hole.” The donut hole refers to the gap in coverage enrollees face between the initial coverage limit and the yearly, out-of-pocket limit known as the catastrophic coverage threshold during which beneficiaries have to pay for the entire cost of their prescription drugs. Beginning in 2011, enrollees with high prescription drug costs that put them in the donut hole will get a 50% discount on covered brand-name drugs and reductions in the cost of generic drugs while they are in the hole. Between 2010 and 2020, Part D enrollees will get increasing, continuous Medicare coverage for their prescription drugs; by 2020, they will pay only 25% out of pocket for the total cost of their drugs and the donut hole will be eliminated.

Patient Protections- Already effective since September 23, 2010, health plans are prohibited from denying coverage or charging a higher premium to children and youth under age 19 based on a pre-existing condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer or HIV/AIDS. Effective January 1, 2014, insurers will not be able to deny coverage to adults ages 19 and older by refusing to sell them a health insurance plan or refusing to renew their plan because they have a pre-existing condition. In addition, an insurer will no longer be allowed to discriminate against women by charging them more for coverage simply because of their sex or charge individuals a higher rate because of their health status.

Already effective since September 23, 2010,  health plans are prohibited from canceling a person’s coverage because their health services became expensive or because they made an unintentional mistake on their insurance forms, except in cases of clear fraud. Also effective  since September 23, 2010, health plans are prohibited from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits. Health plans will are also restricted from imposing unreasonable annual dollar limits on the amount of insurance coverage a patient may receive, and in 2014 banned from imposing annual dollar limits altogether. This is especially important since medical bills are a leading cause of bankruptcy, individuals who have a long term medical illness like lupus or breast cancer can run through their imposed life time insurance limits and have no further insurance coverage and leave them susceptible to medical debt.

The Affordable Care Act represents the most substantial federal effort to eliminate health inequalities. The provisions for data collection and reporting will allow us to better understand and target health disparities. The requirements on workforce will allow us to create a more diverse and culturally competent healthcare workforce with additional incentives for them to practice where they are most in need across urban and underserved communities. There are new research activities that will ensure that we better understand ways to treat African American and other minority communities. There are also significant investments in public health that  will target diseases like obesity and diabetes  at the state, local and community level.

Since the enactment of Health Reform, the economy has created 1,048,000 private sector jobs. The economy has seen twelve straight months of private sector job growth, for a total of more than a million private sector jobs created in 2010. Many economists expect further improvement in the labor market through 2011.

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