African Americans, who as a group are among the least likely Americans to have health insurance, may stand to benefit the most from Obamacare, a new study by the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Department finds.
According to the study, about 4.2 million of the nation's 6.8 million eligible uninsured African Americans - roughly 60 percent - will have new options for coverage under the health care law beginning Jan. 1. Some 2.2 million could qualify for tax credits to buy coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace, and another 2 million could gain coverage either under Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The percentage would be as high as 95 percent if all states were to expand Medicaid.
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"The health care law is working to address long-standing disparities in health care coverage and improve the health of the African American community," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in releasing the study.
Although the uninsured African Americans are disproportionately young - a trend that holds for other minority groups as well - the health care law will have a huge impact on older Americans, according to David Blank of the Alliance for Retired Americans. "Those 50 and up do not fare well when left to fend for themselves in the health insurance marketplace," he says. "The Affordable Care Act offers subsidies to those who would otherwise face extremely high premiums."
The law bars insurers from turning away those who have preexisting conditions and also helps people - many of them older - who traditionally have been charged much higher premiums because of their medical conditions.
As of 2010, about 16.3 percent of all Americans between ages 45 and 64 had no health insurance, according to a study by the AARP Public Policy Institute. In addition, other PPI studies find that 50- to 64-year-olds rely more than younger people on private insurance, which tends to be more expensive than employer-subsidized coverage.
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"This report shows that as the Affordable Care Act is given time to work, there is still potential for millions more Americans to be insured," Blank says. "When governors take full advantage of the Medicaid benefits available from the federal government to their states, the potential skyrockets."
Some states have opted out of the Medicaid expansion, typically citing the increasing share of the costs they would pay beginning in 2017.
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