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Health Care Repeal Would Hurt African Americans

Courteys of New America Media | 11/5/2010, 10:49 a.m.

Promises by House Republicans to overturn health care reform measures passed earlier this year would disproportionately affect the Black community, according to one prominent health care expert.

One central proposal of the current Republican agenda, called the "Pledge to America," would repeal the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, the comprehensive health care reform bill passed by Congress and signed into law earlier this year. Republicans seek to replace the law with less sweeping measures.

A successful attempt to overturn health care reform would end the African-American community's chances of addressing long-running health care disparities, said Dr. Lesley Russell, a visiting fellow specializing in health care for the left-leaning public policy think tank Center for American Progress.

Russell believes that, if implemented, the pledge would fail to improve access to health insurance coverage for African-Americans and would ensure that Blacks continue to receive poorer care and live in poorer health than the rest of the nation.

"The people who stand to gain the most from health care reform would lose the most," Russell told the AFRO. "We've learned that the African-American community has less access to health care services, although they've been helped by government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

But people who don't qualify for those programs struggle to buy health care for themselves and their families because their average incomes are considerably less than the average American family."

The "Pledge to America" would repeal most of the president's health care reforms and replace them with other general measures that would lower costs for families and small businesses and strengthen the doctor-patient relationship. But the Pledge fails to provide specifics about what Republicans would do to control health care spending, improve its quality, or pay for reforms, according to Russell.

Russell said that economic analysis makes it "excruciatingly clear" that the only way health care can be truly affordable is to mandate coverage for all Americans, one of the Affordable Care Act's key provisions.

Health care reform has been the most visible achievement for the Democrat-led Congress and President Obama since he took office 18 months ago, and has become a central issue in this year's mid-term races.