Millions of Blacks still not covered

Freddie Allen | 1/13/2014, 10:58 a.m.
As the Obama administration makes strides to improve the functionality of HealthCare.gov, the flagship website for the Affordable Care Act, ...
Anton Gunn Freddie Allen

“In states that do not expand Medicaid, nearly five million poor uninsured adults will fall into a ‘coverage gap.’ These individuals would have been eligible for Medicaid if their state had chosen to expand coverage,” the report stated. “In the absence of the expansion, they remain ineligible for Medicaid and do not earn enough to qualify for premium tax credits to purchase Marketplace coverage, which begin at 100 percent FPL – federal poverty level. Most of these individuals have very limited coverage options and are likely to remain uninsured.”

The Kaiser report said that 40 percent of uninsured Black adults that live 138 percent below the federal poverty level ($15,856 for an individual, $32,499 for a family of four) “will fall into the coverage gap.”

The report found that many of the states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid are in the South, contributing to the disproportionate effect the move will have on Blacks that live there.

The report stated: “For example, over one-third (34 percent) of the 2.2 million uninsured White adults in the coverage gap reside in Florida (14 percent), Texas (12 percent), and Pennsylvania (8 percent), while over four in ten (43 percent) of the 1.3 million uninsured Black adults in the coverage gap reside in Florida (16 percent), Georgia (15 percent) and Texas (12 percent).”

Blocking Medicaid expansion that would help millions of poor people receive affordable health care will also have a significant economic impact on those states, as well.

In Georgia alone, where 15 percent of all uninsured nonelderly Blacks live, the state will forego $8.2 billion between 2013 and 2022 and more than 70,000 jobs. In Florida, where 16 percent of Black adults in the coverage gap reside, assuming that state expanded Medicaid in 2014, by 2016 the Sunshine State would have gained 71,300 jobs and $8.9 billion in increased economic activity.

In states that chose to expand Medicaid, the federal government plans to pick up 100 percent of the tab for the first three years and no less than 90 percent after the first three years. Some states that didn’t partner with the federal government to expand Medicaid under the ACA are currently picking up as much as 50 percent of the cost.

Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., said that his state is in that group.

“For various reasons, Medicaid rolls are growing in a lot of these states and they are doing themselves a tremendous injustice by not participating in the Affordable Care Act,” Clyburn said.

Gunn said that the important thing to remember is that no matter who you are, whether you’re unemployed, underemployed or fully employed, if you don’t have affordable, accessible health insurance coverage, you should check out the marketplace.

“You should go to HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 and learn about your options,” Gunn said.

On a recent call with reporters, Gunn also encouraged young people, who might believe that health insurance is still too expensive, to log on to HealthCare.gov to see if they qualify for any subsidies or tax credits.

“A three-day hospital stay can cost you $30,000,” Gunn said. “If you don’t have $30,000 laying around, if you don’t have $7,500 to fix a broken arm laying around, it would be wise to protect yourself and have health insurance coverage.”

Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama, said that Republican lawmakers need to end their constant obsession with repealing or sabotaging the Affordable Care Act that is currently providing benefits to an estimated 7.3 million African Americans.

“We are always willing to explore opportunities to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, but what the president is not going to do, as long as he is in office, is repeal it,” she said.