September 6, 2017
Written by The Black AIDS Institute
This report originally appeared in The State of Healthcare Access in Black America report.
The national healthcare debate that has unfolded in Washington D.C. over the last several months has generated anxiety from one end of America to the other. As the racial and ethnic group that stands to lose the most from the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare, Black Americans have had particular cause to be concerned.
Thus far, efforts to repeal and/or replace the ACA have stumbled on Capitol Hill, and Senate and House leaders have taken discussions regarding the future of America’s healthcare system out of the publics view. But the threat to healthcare overage for millions of Americans coverage for millions of Americans is not over. The peril facing the ACA is only dormant and almost certain to return. Indeed, the Trump Administration, regardless of whether Congress takes action, has threatened to severely weaken the insurance market through regulatory decisions, effectively undermining the ACA even if the repeal of Obamacare lacks the votes in Congress.
Media coverage of the ongoing push to repeal the ACA has focused considerable attention on various technical issues and on the political jockeying in Washington. But, in truth, there is only one reason why Congress has thus far failed to repeal the ACA: In the face of a profound threat to basic healthcare access, Americans made their voices heard. As Americans have become more informed about the ACA during this year’s healthcare debates, they have learned to love the ACA. In August 2017, a majority of Americans had a favorable view of Obamacare, with the number of ACA supporters (52%) substantially outweighing ACA opponents (39%). Nearly 4 out of 5 Americans now want the Trump Administration to try to make the ACA work rather than make good on its threats to undermine the program.
There is good reason for this outpouring of support for the ACA, as the program has driven the percentage of Americans with health insurance to record highs. As a result of expanded healthcare access under the ACA, tens of thousands of deaths are averted each year. Of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, none has benefited from the ACA more than Black America. The proportion of Black Americans without health insurance has been cut almost in half as a result of the ACA, and the insurance coverage gap between Black and white Americans, once enormous, has been radically reduced.
The ACA is helping continue and quicken the reduction in disparities in life expectancy between Black and white Americans. As a result of expanded access to care under the ACA, Black America now has the means to more effectively manage health problems that have disproportionately affected Black communities, such as HIV, hypertension, cancer, diabetes and infant mortality. The ACA represents an important step in our country’s still-incomplete journey towards the vision of equal opportunity for all enshrined in our Constitution.