The Berkeley-based Greenlining Institute, in noting that Obamacare turns 3 on March 23, calls it a major milestone for Americans of color. Millions are gaining health insurance coverage as key provisions come into effect. Here is their statement:
Millions of Americans will gain health coverage thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the landmark health care reform law sometimes called “Obamacare” and signed into the law by the president on March 23, 2010. Some significant protections have already taken effect, while other key provisions of the law will start to roll out during 2013, taking full effect in January of 2014. “Millions of Americans who don’t have health insurance today will have it in 2014 because of health care reform,” said Greenlining Institute Health Policy Director Carla Saporta. “That includes 4.7 million Californians who will now be eligible for affordable coverage, and most of them will be people of color. It’s important for everyone to start learning about the new options that will be available to them.” The Greenlining Institute has been working with Covered California, the state health insurance marketplace created by the law, to ensure that the new insurance options reach all communities.
Key Facts and Resources
- Thanks to the law, Americans already cannot be denied coverage due to preexisting conditions. This is of particular importance for people of color, who often suffer higher rates of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and childhood asthma. Several other protections are already in place, including a provision allowing adult children to remain on their parents’ policy up to age 26.
- The ACA creates state-level health insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, which will be a little like Amazon.com for health insurance. Individuals, families and small businesses will be able to shop and compare insurance plans and purchase them through the exchanges. Individuals and families with incomes up to four times the Federal Poverty Level will be eligible for subsidies to help them purchase coverage. An estimated 790,000 Californians will get such help. Small businesses can receive tax credits to help cover their employees
- California’s exchange, Covered California, has already launched its website. People can begin purchasing insurance through Covered California on Oct. 1, with the policies taking effect Jan. 1, 2014.
- A major boost in coverage will come from expansion of Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California), which will now cover incomes up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. In California, over two thirds of the newly eligible will be African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino, or other nonwhite ethnicities. How California implements this expansion, however, is still being worked out in Sacramento. Greenlining is urging Gov. Brown to do what is equitable for all Californians by having the state continue to oversee Medi-Cal and continuing to allocate resources for our counties to ensure a robust safety net.
- Unfortunately, even this massive expansion of health coverage won’t reach everyone. About 4 million Californians are expected to remain uninsured, the majority of whom will be people of color.
- For information on the ACA and its impact nationwide, see http://www.healthcare.gov/; the Spanish version of the site is at http://cuidadodesalud.gov/. For information on Covered California, see http://www.coveredca.com/ or call toll-free (English and Spanish) (888) 975-1142.
- The Greenlining Institute has created a small business primer in English and Spanish that explains the tax credits available to small businesses. See http://greenlining.org/issues/bridges-to-health/2012/affording-health-care-tax-credits-in-the-affordable-care-act-benefiting-your-small-business/