Healthcare for All: The Unfinished Business of a Nation

Amid all of the partisan debate around the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it’s easy to lose sight of the facts: more than 20 million Americans have access to health care coverage because of the Affordable Care Act. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition, put limits on the amount of care you can receive, or charge women more simply because of gender. But perhaps the ACA’s greatest legacy has been its impact on racial inequality in America.

For too long, healthcare was seen as a privilege for those with “good jobs” or large bank accounts.  While the creation of Medicaid and Medicare in 1965 provided access to some care for low-income individuals, there remained huge gaps in coverage for many Americans. The passage of the ACA made access to healthcare a right for all Americans.

Prior to the enactment of the ACA, over 50 million Americans were uninsured, including 20 percent of African Americans and 40 percent of Latinos.  Uninsured Americans were more likely to use the emergency room rather than see a primary care physician, which led to improper diagnoses and lack of consistent treatment for chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and obesity.  Burdened by higher rates of poverty and employment discrimination, African Americans and Latinos faced significant barriers to affordable and quality healthcare.

This article was originally published in State of Black America.