“Blessed are those who persevere” is a quotation from scripture that has stayed with me since my husband Joe and I attended service at a Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., last October. We were invited that morning by the Pink Divas, an inspiring group of African American women who are dedicated to educating their community about early detection of breast cancer, and offering support to those who receive the devastating diagnosis.
As someone who has lost several close friends to breast cancer, I was truly moved by the congregation’s support for survivors—for their mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends. Their commitment to ensuring their community has access to the resources they need was inspiring, and is saving countless lives.
A woman named Ingrid whom I met during service had been diagnosed with breast cancer twice in the last ten years. Both times, she was uninsured and scraped by to pay out of pocket for the mounting medical expenses for the treatment she needed to survive. Finally, in 2014, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and with support from the Pink Divas and fellow congregants, she enrolled in Medicaid. Now, with her cancer in remission, Ingrid shares information about breast health in her community and the importance of having health care coverage.
Stories like Ingrid’s remind us why having health insurance before getting sick is so critical and how it can make a life-changing difference in the lives of our friends, our family members, and those sitting in the pew right next to us on Sunday morning.
Open enrollment for health care is underway, and it runs until February 15. Before the end of this open enrollment period, spread the word in your neighborhood, at school, or at church to ensure those you care for get covered. Encourage your coworkers and even the people you run into at the grocery store to go to HealthCare.gov to find a plan that meets their needs and their budget.
As Second Lady, I am proud to be part of an Administration that is committed to expanding access to life-saving care for millions of Americans. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans are required to cover recommended preventive services, such as mammograms, without co-pays. The health care law also prohibits insurers from denying coverage to those who need care because of pre-existing conditions, including cancer.
Last year, 1.7 million uninsured African Americans gained health coverage through the Affordable Care Act. As a result, the uninsured rate among African Americans dropped by 30 percent, and half a million African American young adults were able to stay covered under their parents’ health insurance plans.
These strides are particularly important given the unique health challenges and historic structural barriers to care African American communities often face. The Affordable Care Act is breaking down many of those barriers, and with the investment of $11 billion in community health centers nationwide, we are expanding access to quality care in many African American neighborhoods.
We have made real progress, but our work is nowhere near finished. Together, we can reach even more uninsured Americans. From basic preventative care to breast cancer treatments, we all benefit from having health insurance, and with plans cheaper than the monthly cost of a cell phone, it is more than worth the peace of mind.
Don’t waste a moment. Open enrollment ends on February 15. Talk to those you care for about signing up for health care coverage. Remember, it is not just for those with serious health conditions like cancer but also for everybody. Do not wait until you get sick. Go to HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 to get covered today.
Dr. Jill Biden is the wife of Vice President Joe Biden.