ACA: You Need to Know

By George Davis Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel | 10/25/2013, 3:38 p.m.

Three years after becoming law, plenty of Americans really don’t understand what the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – already does, and what it will do in the near future. It’s time to know what the health care law can do for you and your family.

In this tough economic climate, African Americans all over the country are struggling to find employment, much less jobs with health benefits. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ July report, 12.6 percent of black Americans were unemployed. Even among those who are employed, health insurance coverage can be elusive. While the majority of people of color – including African Americans – have a full-time worker in the family, they are more likely to be in low-income, low-wage jobs that provide limited access to employer-sponsored health insurance.

The health care law helps reduce the number of people who are uninsured through Medicaid expansion in states that decide to expand their programs, and the creation of a health insurance marketplace with money available to help lower- and moderate-income individuals pay for coverage. Enrollment in the marketplace opens October 1st, with coverage starting in 2014.

Two of the key goals of the health care law are to increase the number of people who have health insurance and to make health insurance more affordable. Health insurance coverage will give people with chronic conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure, access to important treatments that can help them manage these conditions and improve their health outcomes.

But that’s not all. Under the health care law, parents who have health insurance can keep their adult children on their family insurance policies until they turn 26. The sad reality is that young adults have the highest rate of unemployment of any age group, especially African American young men.

In addition, there are also benefits for older Americans receiving Medicare under the health care law. Annual wellness checks are available at no cost. Diet counseling and smoking cessation classes are also provided at no costs for those who qualify.

Plus, there’s another big benefit: insurance companies can’t deny coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions, nor can people be dropped from an insurance plan because of their health conditions. These are significant changes brought about by the health care law.

Regardless of how people feel about the law, it is the law. And knowing its benefits can make a difference in your life. To help, AARP has created a new online tool called www.HealthLawAnswers.org — a quick and easy way to get customized information based on where you live, gender, your family size, income, and insurance status.

It’s everyone’s right and everyone’s business to know how the health care law affects their lives and their health. Get informed. It’s time.