- Faith & Family
As the current election season heads into full swing, few issues seem to capture the attention of voters like that of healthcare. A central part of the domestic agenda for the last two Democratic presidents, the subject of healthcare reform, is already figuring significantly in President Barack Obama’s battle for reelection against Republican nominee Mitt Romney. With healthcare taking on partisan interpretations, the issue of voters making an informed decision at the ballot box has become even more important than before.
And to raise awareness about the Affordable Healthcare Act [ACA], the National Council of Negro Women [NCNW] brought its National Health Care Reform Tour to Florida Memorial University last weekend. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who served as a panelist, said such events are needed in order to increase knowledge about “a complicated law.”
“It’s an evolving piece of legislation that requires careful interpretation,” she said.
Alma Brown, Metro Dade Section president for NCNW, says that the purpose of the tour is to “educate and inform the community about ACA especially about what it means to each person’s rights and protection.”
Learning more about the law’s benefits
Wilson points out that when ACA was signed into law by Obama in March 2010, many of its provisions were to be implemented in stages. Provisions that are already in effect include: small business tax credits to help independent business owners pay for their employees’ coverage; federal matching funds for states that expand state Medicaid coverage to more of their residents; help for older adults who hit their respective coverage gaps for prescription drugs (aka “donut holes); increased efforts to investigate and prosecute healthcare fraud; help for Americans with pre-existing conditions; allowing young adults to be eligible to remain on their parents’ insurance plans up to the age of 26; and free preventative care.
For Pamela Roshell, a regional director for the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services and a panelist for the tour, the need for ACA is simple.
“Millions of Americans were and remain without health insurance in a system that favors providers not consumers,” she said. “Minute errors in filling out of a health care application were often used as grounds to rescind or revoke insurance for unsuspecting people. Another big problem that ACA seeks to address is the disproportionate amount of one’s healthcare premiums being used to pay for other things besides actual service delivery.
“Now is the time to be educated and informed about what the ACA means and the new advantages it brings,” said County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who was instrumental in bringing the health care reform tour to South Florida. She points to at-risk segments of our community as those who suffer due to a lack of “healthcare awareness” including: older adults, people of color, especially Haitian residents and women as a whole.
Brown sees universal healthcare as being of the utmost importance and cites historical precedence as the source of the NCNW’s determination. NCNW founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune herself recognized the need for healthcare for everyone, says Brown, as she retold the story of how Bethune responded to the turning away of a Black student from a segregated hospital in Daytona Beach by starting a hospital herself.
“Healthcare has always been at the forefront of the mission of NCNW,” Brown said.
For organizers such as Brown, Edmonson, and Wilson, feeling better is bigger than politics.
As Wilson said during her opening remarks, “Everyone gets sick.”
By José Pérez
Miami Times writer