With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more Americans can afford quality health insurance. However, having health insurance does not always equal having access to high-quality health care. This is especially true for people of color, who historically have had to grapple with racial and ethnic health disparities. Many people of color continue to face barriers to obtaining high-quality health care, and our nation’s health is closely tied to addressing these obstacles.
Communities of color have long had higher rates of being uninsured than their white counterparts. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act is driving down the numbers of uninsured in these communities. But obtaining high-quality, affordable health care requires more than insurance— for one, it requires access to health care providers and facilities that meet consumers’ needs. Communities of color, even once they have insurance, face barriers that can hinder access to those providers. Of those barriers, one of the most notable is the often limited availability of health care providers and facilities in communities of color. However, the Affordable Care Act includes protections for network adequacy that can help address these long-standing barriers.
Fast-Track Enrollment Could Save Your State Valuable Time, Money, and Staff Resources—All While Increasing the Number of People Who Get Health Insurance
New data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) demonstrate the marked success of recent enrollment efforts: Since before the first open enrollment period to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has grown by 7.2 million people.
The next open enrollment period begins on November 15, and navigator and assister programs are already gearing up to help consumers apply for new coverage or renew existing coverage. During the first open enrollment period, which ran for six months, navigators and assisters were inundated with requests for help from consumers. Demand was so great that staffers were often overwhelmed, and all available appointments were booked. Several state assistance programs found that using volunteers allowed their programs to reach and help more consumers.
In most states, the health care sector is among the industry sectors with the largest employment. Health care jobs tend to pay more than a state’s median wages, and growth in this sector can have a positive economic effect on other areas of a state’s economy. Many organizations, ours included, have written about the effects of Medicaid expansion on a state’s economy. Recently, Missouri (a state that has not yet expanded Medicaid) compared its employment growth in the health care sector to that of select Medicaid expansion states.