Fifty years ago this year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial about the truths deeply rooted in our country’s creed: freedom, equality, and opportunity. "Now," he declared, "is the time to make real the promises of democracy." Dr. King's words lifted the crowd and electrified the nation – and today, we carry on the work of realizing his dream.
This year, as we commemorate National Minority Health Month, we do so knowing that we face a remarkable moment of opportunity in the journey toward equity in health and health care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health care law signed by the President three years ago, is one of the most powerful pieces of legislation in our nation’s history for reducing the health disparities long faced by racial and ethnic minorities.
Today, the ACA is transforming health care for Americans all across the country by expanding coverage, lowering costs, promoting prevention, and strengthening access to quality care. In many ways, those who stand to benefit the most are our most vulnerable and underserved communities – including racial and ethnic minorities, who are more likely to be uninsured, less likely to get the preventive services and quality care they need to stay healthy, and more likely to face poorer health outcomes.
Because of the ACA, nearly 20 million minorities now have access to important preventive services, such as diabetes screenings, mammograms, and immunizations, for free. Of the 3.1 million young people who have gained health coverage under their parents' plans, a majority are people of color. And in communities that have long faced disparities in access to care, the Affordable Care Act is investing in community health centers, and placing thousands of doctors and nurses to serve in communities where the need is greatest.
Yet this is just the beginning. Starting this October, when the new Health Insurance Marketplaces open for enrollment, even more Americans – including millions of uninsured minorities – will have the chance to access affordable coverage in every state.
As implementation of the ACA continues, health equity has been elevated to the forefront of our national agenda as never before. Our charge now is to march ahead – to keep the momentum going – to make the most of this remarkable opportunity.
We know that opening new doors to coverage isn’t enough to initiate a transformation, or to ensure that its impact reaches those who need it the most. We need everyone’s help to spread the word – to ensure that tens of millions of eligible Americans know about the benefits that are now available to them, and the options that they will be able to access when the marketplaces open.
This year's theme for Minority Health Month, "Advance Health Equity Now: Uniting Our Communities to Bring Health Care Coverage to All," is a call to action for everyone to participate in that effort. In the face of one of our nation's most pressing and persistent challenges, this is the chance that so many have worked for and dreamed of for so long.
As we look to the road ahead, let us consider all that it took to get to where are today. And as we rise to meet this moment, let us remember how those who came before us stepped up to theirs, and let us work together to honor their dreams.
To learn more about Minority Health Month and the Affordable Care Act, visit http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov and http://www.healthcare.gov, and join in the conversation @MinorityHealth and @HealthCareGov.
Office of Minority Health website
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