Are African Americans skeptical of fed health insurance?

By Titus Falodun Staff Writer | 3/14/2014, 9:55 a.m.
Despite the looming deadline of Monday, March 31, for enrolling in the federal government’s health insurance program, many African Americans ...
Left to right: Congressman Hank Johnson, CBWW CEO Jemea S. Dorsey, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Fulton County Chairman John Eaves. Photo by Titus Falodun.

“My guess is that you can’t find a pair of running shoes for a $105 a month,” she said. “I know you can’t find a cell phone plan for a $105 a month. But you can find full health insurance for a $105 a month.”

The plans offer various options and benefits that include financial aid perks. They also fully cover a wide range of doctor/hospital related visits, such as cancer screenings, diabetes checkups, flu shots and more.

Still, majority of trepidation is due to lack of accessibility, which can take many forms for African Americans.

Consider that 30 percent of African Americans reported not having visited a doctor at all in 2010, according to a 2013 report published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“For men, there’s really not a lot of history with preventive health care,” Dorsey explained. “So often times, they are only going to the doctor if something is hurting.”

There is a social stigma of medical mistrust, especially in amongst African American men.

This very disconnect is why by the time many seek treatment for a condition, it is too late in the stage, thus poor health and economic statuses.

According to a recent study by the International Journal of Men’s Health, African American men incurred $341.8 billion in excess medical costs due to health, from 2006 to 2009. That is more than any other racial/ethnic group during the same period.

African American women also face overwhelming health and financial risks due to lifestyle and behavior.

“With women, we prioritize everybody else, especially if we’re parenting or taking care of our aging parents,” Dorsey said. “Often what happens with all those competing priorities, we’re the last ones to take care of ourselves. So, I think we just don’t have necessarily a good history with health care utilization.”

In its 25 years of existence, the CBWW has been at the forefront of health awareness in the Atlanta community. Dorsey and her staff have witnessed the pitfalls of poor health coverage and the success of preventive care.

“Once we know right, we do right,” she said.

Furthermore, Dorsey feels the role of the African American woman is a catalyst to better health communitywide.

“To our credit, once we’re incorporating these healthy lifestyles, these healthy behaviors, the whole family gets onboard with that,” she explained. “We have such a major influence on the health of our family, our children.”

Dorsey also cited African Americans as being the second highest rate of uninsured in Georgia.

“It behooves us to be ones out there before March 31, getting on the exchange and finding out what coverage is available to us,” she said.

In the meantime, Sebelius is urging Georgia lawmakers and Gov. Nathan Deal to reconsider Medicaid expansion in the state.

“Every day, since January 1, Georgia is losing $9.2 million in federal funding that would cover [the cost of those uninsured],” she explained. “That would cover about 446,000 [people] in the Atlanta area and millions in the state of Georgia.”

The federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of the newly insured on Medicaid for the first three years, and gradually reduce that, but never less than 90 percent of federal money for the first 10 years, Sebelius said.

That means in Georgia, $9.2 million per day would come to the state from the federal government to cover the cost of the uninsured.

“We now have 32 governors that have stepped forward,” Sebelius added. “And we hope that Governor Deal will join that group.”

As of Wednesday, March 12, President Obama’s administration announced 4.2 million people in total have enrolled for health insurance via the ACA.

It does not change the fact that the administration is well shy of its six million-enrolled goal but there is time remaining…albeit two weeks.

Follow Titus Falodun, The Atlanta Voice journalist at @titusfalodun.

Correction: In the printed and digital edition of this article, it was incorrectly stated that the CBWW has 21 navigators, instead the changes made within this online edition are correct.