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Though it is not often framed as a racial justice issue, the Affordable Care Act has the potential to greatly improve, perhaps even save, the lives of millions of African Americans. African Americans are significantly more likely than other racial and ethnic groups to have more than one chronic condition such as hypertension, diabetes or cancer. 

Under new insurance plans, preventive services are covered free of charge.  This is critical because preventive services like screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes can help detect illnesses before they are a problem. 

Day care worker Jennifer Mapp of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who watched her family struggle to find treatment for cancer and diabetes, didn't hesitate to enroll in coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act. "My dad's experience trying to find coverage taught me that getting insurance on my own would be difficult," she told the non-profit and non-partisan organization Enroll America. "That's not the case anymore. I qualified for a marketplace subsidy that makes my premium $21 a month."  

More than 7.8 million, or 20 percent, of African Americans are uninsured. It’s estimated that about 6 in 10 eligible uninsured African Americans could obtain healthcare coverage under Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or tax credits for private health insurance on the ACA marketplace. If all states expanded Medicaid, up to 95 percent of uninsured African Americans could qualify for new health care options!

RELATED: WHY THE ACA IS IMPORTANT FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS

When Chantel Mendez, a part-time home care worker turned 26 and was booted off her father's insurance, she spent years with no insurance, much of it on the Internet self-diagnosing when she felt sick."Whenever I had some sort of medical issue, I'd look it up online and start getting worried," she told the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). "Even if I thought it might be something serious, I'd tell myself that I'd wait a week and then see how it goes."

When open enrollment was first announced, many of the Internet-savvy, like Mendez, were unsuccessful. The site's early problems became huge media stories that threatened to eclipse the program's benefits. But the site improved over time and Mendez succeeded in purchasing a plan and she is now seeing qualified health professionals rather than trying to diagnose and treat herself simply using website content. She can also rest easy knowing preventive services like screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes can help detect illnesses before they are a problem. 

If you know anyone who's been intimidated by enrolling online, Mendez has simple advice: "Tell them please get on the phone and call, do it now!" 

To sign up or receive help to enroll for healthcare coverage, call 1-800-318-2596 or visit  Healthcare.gov. The enrollment deadline is March 31st.