By AFRO Staff

National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. recently authored an op-ed for The Hill, an influential Washington publication, that highlights an important aspect of the novel coronavirus pandemic faced by Black Americans.

“Minority and low-income Americans suffer from a significant lack of access to quality health care. They are also more likely to not have health insurance and are often hit with surprise medical bills they cannot afford. The coronavirus is no different,” Chavis wrote in the commentary. 

“Many black Americans will not get tested for coronavirus — whether they have symptoms or not — due to the fact that they cannot easily access medical facilities, and/or they are worried they will not be able to afford the medical services.”

Benjamin F. Chavis (Courtesy Photo/

In addition to massive losses of income due to stay-at-home directives meant to stave off the pandemic, the NNPA chief added, legislation currently under consideration in Congress could make that financial burden worse. The surprise medical billing bill, which some proponents are trying to squeeze in with coronavirus relief legislation, would remove the onus of such costs from insurance companies and transfer it to patients and providers.

It is an issue that had been spotlighted by both the Rev. Al Sharpton and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Chavis said.

Given the ballot strength demonstrated by Black voters in resurrecting Biden’s campaign, he added, it would behoove Capitol Hill policymakers to sit up and pay notice.

“The country has finally seen the power of our influence,” he said. “I believe it is time now for our concerns to be taken a bit more seriously by policymakers in Washington, starting with the dramatic challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic.” 

Chavis’ op-ed is part of a broader campaign by the NNPA, the NNPA Coronavirus Task Force and Resource Center, to address the unique challenges the novel coronavirus pandemic poses to Black and underserved communities.

The task force comprises publishers, editors, physicians, nurses, corporate partners, sponsors, associates and supporters of the Black Press of America. And the resource center is a central, curated source of up-to-date, targeted information on the pandemic.

publishers, editors, physicians, nurses, corporate partners, sponsors, associates and supporters of the Black Press of America.

“The deadly spread of the coronavirus in the United States exacerbates not only the poor health status of African Americans but it exposes their persistent lack of access to quality, culturally competent healthcare from testing to diagnosis to treatment,” said Sheila Thorne, president and CEO of Multicultural Healthcare Marketing Group, LLC. 

“I applaud the NNPA for taking a leadership position to disseminate accurate and culturally relevant health information to black Americans that will protect all in the community and save lives, especially those who are underserved and underrepresented.”