african american couple hospital waiting room

Every February, we celebrate the achievements of the African-American community and the advances that have been made toward full racial equality, and we honor the giants of the Civil Rights movement whose accomplishments and struggle still impact us today. At the same time, Black History Month reminds us that there is still work to be done, especially when it comes to equality in health care.

The fact is that Black women face greater obstacles to obtaining, and benefiting from, reproductive health services than our white counterparts. As a result, we experience higher rates of reproductive cancers, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections than most other groups of people in the United States. Among women diagnosed with breast cancer, for example, Black women are more likely to die from the disease, and black women with cervical cancer are twice as likely to lose their lives to this disease as compared to white women.

While the ACA benefits all women, women of color — including African-American women — stand to make historic strides in gaining access to affordable health care under the new health care law. The ACA means that millions more Black women will have access to the regular exams and health screenings that can rule out or detect life-threatening diseases such as breast and cervical cancers, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV. Early detection and treatment of these diseases saves lives.

Obamacare has laid the groundwork to provide nearly 6.8 million uninsured African Americans the opportunity for affordable health insurance. African Americans are more than 55 percent more likely to be uninsured than our White counterparts — a staggering gap that we can reduce by making sure that people understand their options under the ACA and have the information and tools they need to enroll in new health insurance plans.

If you’re uninsured, you can enroll in new, more affordable health care plans right now. If you have insurance, the ACA means good things for you as well. Here are four things to know about health insurance under the ACA:

1.  All plans cover a wide range of preventive care services — including annual well-woman exams and cancer screenings — for free, without a copay.

2.  Every plan must cover the full range of prescription birth control methods (pill, implants, intrauterine devices (IUDs), etc.) without copay.

3.  Every plan will cover essential maternity services. Some prenatal services and screenings are offered free with no copay, as well as breastfeeding counseling and services. (Other covered services and copay amounts vary from plan to plan, so you’ll need to know what a particular plan covers before selecting it).

4. Under the new health care law, people can no longer be denied coverage for having a “pre-existing condition,” and young people can remain on their parent’s insurance until age 26.

What this means is that, thanks to the ACA, we’ll be able take care of ourselves and our families better than ever.

As a doctor who is committed to helping improve the health and lives of my community, I’m excited about what the Affordable Care Act means for African-Americans — including the patients that I see every day at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC. Planned Parenthood and the Black community have a strong history of working together to increase opportunity and provide greater access to health care to all individuals. Here, we believe that access to quality health care is a fundamental right for all people — regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation.  We believe that when people are truly cared for, they make their lives, families, and communities stronger.

As we celebrate Black History Month this year, let us remember the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:  “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” The Affordable Care Act is one step toward eliminating this particular form of inequality.

For more information, about the new health care law, health insurance terms to know, and how to choose a plan, check out PlannedParenthoodHealthInsuranceFacts.org and PlannedParenthoodAsegurate.org.