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NMA to Partner with Black Churches for Health Insurance Outreach Initiative

3/10/2014, 4:36 p.m.
The National Medical Association, the nation's largest organization of African-American physicians representing more than 37,000 doctors, announced Monday it is ...
On hand on March 10 to announce the partnership between the National Medical Association were (from left) Rev. Miriam Burnett, medical director of the Worldwide African Methodist Episcopal Church; Dr. Pam DeVeaux, supervisor, 2nd Episcopal District, AME Church; Etoy Ridgnal, director of African-American engagement and faith-based initiatives for Enroll America; Dr. Michael LeNoir, president of the NMA; Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of African-American religious affairs for the People for the American Way Foundation; and Rev. Kevin Agee, presiding elder, Washington/Virginia District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Lon Walls

The National Medical Association (NMA), the nation's largest organization of African-American physicians representing more than 37,000 doctors, announced Monday it is partnering with Enroll America and African-American religious denominations to help educate minority communities about the Affordable Care Act and increase public awareness of the opportunity for African-Americans to have health insurance coverage. Twenty-one percent, or one in five, African-Americans under the age of 65 do not have health insurance coverage.

A recent survey by Enroll America showed that 68 percent of uninsured African-Americans are unaware that financial help is available to help pay for the new health insurance options. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, six in ten uninsured African-Americans may qualify either for tax credits to purchase coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace or for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

"The churches in the African-American community play a pivotal role in informing people about the Affordable Care Act and encouraging them to enroll for health coverage," said Dr. Michael LeNoir, president of the NMA. "Our partnership with the faith community will provide our physicians with the opportunity to help the uninsured understand the long–term ramifications of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In addition, we will provide cholesterol, blood pressure and other screenings at the church events."

Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 14 percent of African-Americans, or approximately 5.5 million people, are considered to be in fair or poor health. Approximately 38 percent of African-American men and 44 percent of African-American women, 20 years of age or older, have hypertension while 38 percent of African-American men and 54 percent of African-American women older than 20 years are obese. The numbers pertaining to smoking are also very sobering. More than 25 percent of Black men and 18 percent of Black women, 18 years of age or older, smoke cigarettes. Under the Affordable Care Act, all plans are required to cover smoking cessation interventions free of cost.

"The NMA takes a hard line on smoking and considers it to be public enemy number one as it pertains to the health of the African-American community," said Dr. LeNoir. "Smoking is a major contributing factor in the development of heart disease and cancer. A recent report issued by the U.S. Surgeon General states that individuals who smoke expose themselves to thousands of chemicals and compounds, many of which are known to cause cancer."

African-American males lead all ethnic groups in the number of new cancer cases. They also rank first in the number of deaths caused by cancer. African-American women rank second in the number of new cases of cancer each year but rank number one when it comes to cancer deaths among females. In the past, many cancer patients were denied coverage based on their pre-existing condition, but now, nobody can be denied because of their cancer history.

"Churches are the center of the African-American Community and are in the forefront of educating people about the Affordable Care Act," said Etoy Ridgnal, Director of African-American Engagement and Faith Based Initiatives for Enroll America. "The African-American churches in the Faith Based Initiative have a combined membership of over 17 million. Now, thanks to this partnership with physicians, individuals who attend our church events will not only learn how they can get help paying for health insurance but they will also have access to information about various diseases provided by experts."