Thursday, June 25, 2009

Color of Change Requests Black Public Support for Public Option

President Obama is trying to reform our broken health care system, which has left more than 45 million Americans uninsured1 and millions more with insurance that won't provide the treatment they need.2

Some in Congress are with Obama. But the insurance industry, with help from Republicans3 and so-called centrist Democrats,4 is leading the charge to kill a key part of his plan -- a government-run insurance plan that would increase the number of Americans covered, called the "public option." Industry groups are spending millions -- $35 million in lobbying costs alone5 -- to convince people that they won't be able to choose their doctor, that government will be making their medical decisions, that they'd be forced to take the government's plan, and that the plan is part of some socialist plot -- all lies. In reality, the insurance industry is trying to protect its enormous profits on the backs of everyday people.

For Black folks, the stakes couldn't be higher: we are twice as likely as Whites to be uninsured, we have more than double the rate of infant mortality, we face more than twice the rate of diabetes-related deaths than Whites -- and the list goes on.6

While the fight rages in Washington, our voices are simply not at the table. You can help change that. Join us in telling Congress that we believe every person in this country should have equal access to affordable health care, regardless of race, income, or any other factor. And please ask your friends and family to do the same. It takes just a moment:

Americans understand the idea of the public option and overwhelmingly support it -- three out of four people want the federal government to offer insurance coverage.7,8 But powerful lobbying groups like America's Health Insurance Plans, Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, and the American Medical Association -- representing the insurance industry, the drug industry, and doctors -- are doing everything in their power to maintain the status quo.9

Several organizations have pushed back, including -- a key partner of ours in this fight -- but it will take all of us standing up if we want to win.

A public option makes sense for the country as a whole, and it makes particularly good sense for Black folks. Many of us make too much to qualify for Medicaid but either aren't eligible for or aren't adequately covered by private, employer-based plans. Overall, 21% of Blacks are uninsured, compared to 12% of Whites.10

We need a public insurance option, but that's not the only thing we should be fighting for. We need to push for equity in all aspects of our approach to health care. Every community deserves quality medical treatment, research and resources. That's not what we're getting now, and the numbers prove it:

  • 22% of Black women say cost keeps them away from the doctor's office, compared to 15% of White women11
  • Black women have the highest rates of new AIDS cases, cancer mortality, obesity and low-weight infants of any ethnic or racial group12
  • There are 13.6 Black infant deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 5.7 White infant deaths per 1,000 live births13
  • There are 47 Black deaths from diabetes-related illness per 100,000 people, compared to 22.5 White deaths per 100,000 people14
  • There are 60.1 new AIDS cases per 100,000 people among Blacks, compared to 6.7 new cases per 100,000 people among Whites15

Our opportunity to address the disparities that keep too many of us from enjoying long, healthy lives is now.

Take a minute to tell our lawmakers that the first step toward improving our health care system is including a public plan that makes good health something everyone can afford. And when you do, please ask your friends and family to do the same:

Thanks and Peace,

-- James, Gabriel, William, Dani and the rest of the team
June 25, 2009

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1. "Five basic facts on the uninsured," Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, 9-16-08

2. "25 Million Americans Are 'Underinsured,'" U.S. News & World Report, 6-10-08

3. "GOP Senators Send Letter Opposing Public Plan," CBS News, 6-8-09

4. "Blue Dogs Backsliding On Health Care," Huffington Post, 6-8-09

5. "Lobbying boosted as health care debate heats up," USA Today, 6-12-09

6. "Key Health and Health Care Indicators by Race/Ethnicity and State," Kaiser Family Foundation, 2009

7. "Obama Boost: New Poll Shows 76% Support For Choice Of Public Plan," Huffington Post, 6-17-09

8. "Poll: Most Back Public Health Care Option," CBS News, 6-20-09

9. "Why the Critics of a Public Option for Health Care are Wrong," Robert Reich, 6-23-09

10. See #6

11. "Putting Women's Health Care Disparities on the Map: Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparities at the State Level," Kaiser Family Foundation, 6-10-09

12. Ibid.

13. See #6

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

Additional resources:

"Many in Congress hold stakes in health industry," The New York Times, 6-13-09

"The isolationism of health reform," Slate, 6-15-09

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