‘Obamacare’ sign ups begin amid government shutdown
White House outlines health benefits for African Americans
By Hazel Trice Edney
Trice Edney Newswire
The Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) became law amid desperate political acts to stop it from happening — including a Republican-led government shutdown, which could last for days, weeks or even longer.
The Republican-led Congress allowed the closure of non-essential services of the U. S. Government beginning Oct. 1, in attempt to force the President to delay the effects of the health care law. The President has refused.
Some parts of the ACA are already in effect, but this week, Americans can begin signing up for full benefits by going to a recently created Web site, HeathCare.gov, to review the Health Insurance Marketplace. This Web site offers plans of competing insurance agencies and helps guide people to the best insurance choices.
Republicans in the House of Representatives argue that the ACA is too expensive for small businesses, although businesses with less than 50 employees are exempt. Republicans continued their attempts to defund what they call “Obamacare,” but none of the political moves would pass the Democratically-led Senate. Even if they succeed, President Obama has promised a veto.
The ACA sign up, which started Oct. 1, is encouraged by President Obama, despite government closures.
“The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down,” he told reporters in a briefing Sept. 30. “This is a law that passed both houses of Congress; a law that bears my signature; a law that the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional; a law that voters chose not to repeal last November.”
The White House recently released a detailed report listing the benefits of the ACA to African Americans.
Those benefits include:
- Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will provide 6.8 million uninsured African Americans an opportunity to get affordable health insurance coverage.
- Already, an estimated 7.3 million African Americans with private insurance now have access to expanded preventive services with no cost sharing. These services include well-child visits, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, Pap tests and mammograms for women, and flu shots for children and adults.
- The 4.5 million elderly and disabled African Americans who receive health coverage from Medicare also have access to many preventive services with no cost-sharing, including annual wellness visits with personalized prevention plans, diabetes and colorectal cancer screening, bone mass measurement and mammograms
- More than 500,000 young African American adults between ages 19 and 25, who would otherwise have been uninsured, now have coverage under their parent’s employer-sponsored or individually purchased health plan.
- Major federal investments to improve quality of care are improving management of chronic diseases more prevalent among African Americans.
- The health care workforce will be more diverse due to a near tripling of the National Health Service Corps. African American physicians make up about 17 percent of Corps physicians, a percentage that greatly exceeds their 6 percent share of the national physician workforce.
- Investments in data collection and research will help establish greater clarity on the causes of health care disparities and develop effective programs to eliminate them.
- Targeted interventions, such as community transformation grants, will promote healthy lifestyles, lower health care costs and reduce health disparities.
- Increased funding available to more than 1,100 community health centers will increase the number of patients served. One of every five patients at a health center is African American.
- States have new opportunities to expand Medicaid coverage to include Americans with family incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level (generally $31,322 for a family of four in 2013). This expansion includes adults without dependent children living at home, who have not previously been eligible in most states.
As the ACA takes effect, factions of Congress continued to wrangle over budgetary matters with hopes to reopen the government as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the President has made it clear the ACA is non-negotiable as he outlined the effects of the government shutdown.
“If the United States Congress does not fulfill its responsibility to pass a budget today, much of the United States government will be forced to shut down tomorrow,” President Obama said Monday. “And I want to be very clear about what that shutdown would mean — what will remain open and what will not.”
He first ticked off the services that will continue:
- If you’re on Social Security, you will keep receiving your checks.
- If you’re on Medicare, your doctor will still see you.
- Everyone’s mail will still be delivered.
- Government operations related to national security or public safety will go on.
- Military troops will continue to serve and will be paid.
- Air traffic controllers, prison guards, those who are with border control will remain on their posts, but their paychecks will be delayed until the government reopens.
Then, he listed the shutdowns.
- NASA will shut down almost entirely, but Mission Control will remain open to support the astronauts serving on the Space Station.
- Office buildings would close. Paychecks would be delayed.
- Several hundred thousand workers will be immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay.
- Some vital services that seniors and veterans, women and children, businesses and the economy depend on “would be hamstrung,” the President said. Those services include some programs that provide health meals to 2.5 million seniors; compensation, pension and education benefits for veterans and nutrition assistance to mothers with young children.
- Business owners would see delays in raising capital, seeking infrastructure permits, or rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.
- Veterans support centers will go unstaffed.
- Federal tourist destinations, such as national parks, monuments, including the Smithsonian and the Statue of Liberty, will be closed. Cleanup crews and concession workers will also be laid off.
These closures will affect “communities and small businesses that rely on these national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers,” said Obama. He appeared especially concerned about how the shutdown will affect furloughed people already fighting a struggling economy.
“What, of course, will not be furloughed are the bills that they have to pay — their mortgages, their tuition payments, their car notes,” the President said.