What does this mean for the Black community?
By Dr. Patricia McManus,
Black Health Coalition
Sunday was a historic day for the Black community and for the country as a whole.
Not since 1965, has the federal government moved to reform the nation’s healthcare system. It was an ugly fight and no one got all of what they wanted, but it is a beginning.
I watched with wonder as the two political parties were clearly miles apart on what they wanted to see happen with this issue.
It was a difference of values that over the year had turned into a political fight for all the marbles.
The question of whether healthcare is a right or a privilege was at the forefront of the debate, but political agendas took over very fast and pushed this debate to the heart of “who are the real Americans?”
If you were for the healthcare bill proposed by the Democrats you were a socialist who wanted big government and entitlements for everyone. If you were a Republican you were for small government and healthcare was for those who could afford it, forgetting everyone else. These sentiments had truth and falsehoods in both of them.
President Obama ran on the promise of doing something about the healthcare system. He decided to tackle the financing aspect of the system, especially given the current state of our economy.
The Republicans saw this as a way to destroy Obama by stopping his proposed plans. So we saw two different views of what America stands for and also what role politics play in how things are done.
In the end, the Democrats won this round. But did the people win?
I would say that it was a necessary win, but it did not meet all of the needs that a comprehensive plan would have done. But it is the first step. The battle is not completely over yet.
The Republicans in the Senate will still try to stop the process during a procedure called reconciliation. The procedure is needed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills. Democrats only need a simple majority instead of the 60 votes needed to pass the original bill.
I will wait to see what the final bill looks like to describe in detail what this means for the Black community, but I can easily say that we will be better off than we were before.
We have higher uninsured rates. We are more likely to have jobs that do not provide health insurance benefits.
We are certainly the first ones to get fired from a job and lose health benefits if we were lucky enough to have them in the first place.
Lastly, we are less healthy so we can get sick, causes us to not be able to work and then lose our benefits. This new legislation addresses most of these issues. Everyone in the United States should have access to healthcare insurance.
There is a mandatory provision that everyone who does not have health insurance must purchase healthcare for themselves and their families. Anyone who makes less than $88,000 per year will receive financial assistance.
Also insurance companies cannot deny you coverage for pre-existing conditions, but it is not clear if they can still charge you a higher rate. Additionally, children will be able to stay on their parents insurance now until the age of 26.
I do not expect these provisions of the bill to change, but you never know.
As of Sunday, healthcare is now social policy in this country, just like every other industrialized country in the world. It is no longer just part of the business sector.
After all, in 1966 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane.”
Today, we are on our way to a more humane society!!