Obamaâ€™s White House reached out to the Black Press last week in an effort to emphasize â€œthe importance of lowering healthcare costs and the long-term impacts on the African American community.â€
According to Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, the president knows that â€œreducing costs is particularly important for the African American community because on average, they spend a higher percentage of their income on healthcare costs (16.5 percent) compared to their White counterparts (12 percent).â€
â€œDespite spending more of their income on medical care, African Americans continue to face disparities in terms of the [quality of care] they get,â€ DeParle told Black reporters during the Thurs., May 14 White House teleconference. â€œThose [disparities] are brought about because [Blacks] tend to visit hospitals that provide lower quality care, which, of course, is directly attributable to the lack of financial resources for the hospital.â€
DeParle continued, â€œWe want to make sure that controlling spending is about more than just saving money. Itâ€™s also got to be about ensuring that we provide the best patient-centered healthcare system that promotes health and prevents illness.â€
Obama has made it clear that the key to solving the nationâ€™s long-term economic problems is lowering spiraling healthcare costs to consumers. Democratic leaders in Congress have pledged to have healthcare reform legislation completed, and on the presidentâ€™s desk, before lawmakers break for summer recess in August.
â€œNearly 46 million Americans donâ€™t have any health insurance at all. We know that there are millions of families that are struggling to pay skyrocketing premiums, and businesses are sacrificing growth and innovation to cover healthcare costs,â€ DeParle said.
â€œThe issue of [rising] healthcare costs is especially troubling in the African American community, where African Americans suffer from higher percentages of chronic diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes, that are due in part to a lack of access to quality care.â€
President Obama met with healthcare industry leaders last week, reportedly to gain their commitment to reduce the annual healthcare spending growth by an average 1.5 percent a year for the next 10 years.
In fall 2008, Obama, then a Democratic presidential candidate, told Black reporters via teleconference call that if elected, he would push for targeted prevention measures in the African American community.
â€œThe emphasis on prevention will include addressing disparities. Weâ€™re making sure that there are regular screenings for things like prostate cancer and breast cancer that occur at higher rates in the African American community. That all of those [prevention efforts] are adequately funded on the front end so that we can save money on the back end,â€ Obama said.
In the $787 billion stimulus package that the president signed into law in February, $1 billion was designated to fund prevention efforts and public health campaigns across the states. More than $2 billion was allotted to the National Institutes of Health for further research into chronic diseases.