On Sept. 23, six key provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect, which the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said will make health disparities in minority communities start to disappear:

*Young people will be allowed to stay on their parent’s plan until they turn 26 years old. This new provision does not apply for existing plans if the youg person has been offered coverage at work.

*Under new health plans, preventive services such as mammograms, heart screenings and colonoscopies, will now be provided under new plans without charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance.

*It is now unlawful for insurance providers to deny coverage to people for technical or any other clerical error on customer’s application.

*The law provides consumers with a way to appeal coverage determinations or claims to their insurance company, and establishes an external review process.

*Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits, like hospital stays. In 2014, this will go into effect for new individual plans and all group plans.

*Lastly, the new law includes rules to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to children under the age of 19 due to a pre-existing condition.

Dr. Garth Graham, HHS deputy assistant secretary for minority health, said in a statement that the new measures will allow some of the more underserved communities in America to get better care to keep them healthier, but will also help to keep them out of debt.

“Too many African-Americans lack insurance and don’t get the preventative care they need,” Garth said. “African-American men have very high rates concerning colon cancer. The lacks of insurance means African Americans are significantly more likely than whites to visit the emergency room for non-urgent care and to experience serious problems with medical bills and medical debt.”

But U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin said the minority population must still take advantage of the new opportunities in health coverage. She said it’s her job to express the importance of preventative coverage.

“It’s my job and hopefully will join me in educating people about it,” Benjamin said in a statement. “One of the things I hope to do as Surgeon General is to move our health care system from one based on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention.

“It’s going to be a long-term process to be able to change us from that,” she continued. “That’s everything from exercising to eating right and to being healthy. My vision is for a healthy and fit nation and prevention is at the center of that.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO