Six out of 10 uninsured African-Americans who are eligible for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace may qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or tax credits to help with the cost of premiums.

The percent of eligible persons would increase to 95 percent if all states were to expand Medicaid coverage as provided by the Affordable Care Act, according to a Dec. 9 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“The health care law is working to address long standing disparities in health care coverage and improve the health of the African American community,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

“Through the Health Insurance Marketplace, 6.8 million uninsured African Americans have new options for affordable health coverage that covers a range of benefits, including important preventive services with no out-of-pocket costs.“

Of the 41.3 million uninsured Americans and legal U.S. residents, 16 percent are Black. African Americans tend to be uninsured at a higher rate than other Americans, statistics show. While 16 percent of all nonelderly U.S. citizens and other lawful residents are uninsured, 20 percent of eligible African Americans lack health insurance.

Many of those uninsured live in Florida (677,000), Georgia (631,000), Texas (617,000), North Carolina (380,000) and New York (354,000).

But four of those five leading states—all except New York—do not plan to expand Medicaid, which advocates said is troubling as many African Americans lack insurance because of meager incomes.

More than half—3.8 million or 55 percent—of all eligible uninsured African Americans have family incomes below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and nearly two-thirds of these people (2.4 million) live in states that are not expanding Medicaid.

“This means that more than one in three eligible uninsured African Americans may not gain access to affordable coverage through Medicaid in 2014 because their state declined to take the federally funded option to expand Medicaid eligibility,” the report concluded.

Critics of these mostly Republican-run states said they need to stop playing politics with people’s lives.

“ report is further proof that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is helping address health disparities by reducing costs for health care coverage in our most vulnerable communities,” Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-Md.) said in a statement. “But the gains for the African American community should be even greater: all 50 states should put politics aside and expand Medicaid to give 95 percent of eligible African Americans the health care coverage they deserve.”


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO