Nearly 4 million black men eligible to sign up for health insurance

Open enrollment began Tuesday

Frederick H. Lowe | 10/1/2013, 11:53 p.m.
The nearly 4 million black men who do not have health insurance now can apply for coverage through the Health ...

The nearly 4 million black men who do not have health insurance now can apply for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act because open enrollment began today.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that there are an estimated 6.8 million uninsured African Americans, and 56 percent, or 3.8 million, are men.

The 6.8 million uninsured African Americans is higher than the estimated 3.8 million previously quoted by the Rand Corporation in 2012. "The numbers are all estimates and they change," an HHS spokesperson said.

Already helping blacks

The Affordable Care Act, which Republicans wanted to defund, will help African Americans who suffer from obesity, heart disease, and diabetes at higher levels than general population. Insurance coverage cannot be denied because of pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and prostate cancer.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services' report "The Affordable Care Act and African Americans," 37 percent of African Americans were obese in 2010 compared to 26 percent of whites.

The Affordable Care Act already is helping African Americans. Some 3.1 million young adults secured health coverage through their parents' plans, and 6.6 million seniors are paying less for prescription drugs.

Lower health insurance premiums

Health and Human Services announced last week insurance premiums for individuals will be lower than expected.

"Premiums nationwide will be around 16 percent lower than originally expected. About 95 percent of eligible uninsured live in states with lower than expected premiums --- before taking into account financial assistance," said Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. "In the past, consumers were too often denied or priced-out of quality health-insurance options, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act, consumers can choose from a number of new coverage options at a price that is affordable."

In 36 states, the Department of Health and Human Services will either fully or partly run the Marketplace. In those states, consumers will have an average of 53 plan choices.

Individuals 19 to 64 years old can qualify for the Insurance Market Place if they are not covered by Medicare. Young adults up to 25 years old also can remain on their mother's or father's private health plan.

The government is offering three plans: Bronze, Silver and Gold. As the names suggest, Bronze is the least expensive, Silver falls in the middle and Gold is the most expensive. There also is the Platinum plan, which is considered the super Cadillac of all the plans.

Prices of some health plans

Health and Human Services published a 15-page document with preliminary health insurance rate for each state. The actual prices are being posted today.

In Illinois, for example, a 27 year-old would pay $134 per month for the lowest-priced Bronze plan; $180 per month for the lowest-priced Silver plan and $210 for the lowest priced Gold plan.

In Chicago, a 27 year-old person would pay before taxes $125 per month for the lowest Bronze plan, $172 a month for the lowest Silver plan and $202 per month for the lowest Gold plan.

Not every black person is welcoming with open arms the Affordable Care Act.

David Thierry, a Chicago small business owner, who does not have health insurance, is one of them.

"I don't know anything about it," Thierry, 64, said. "I can't afford it and I don't want a medical doctor to come near me. Doctors are in business to keep the pharmaceutical industry going, and I'm into alternative medicine."

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that 6.8 million African Americans will sign up for the Affordable Care Act over the next several years. Open Enrollment ends July 29, 2013.

In addition, the Congressional Budget Office expects 7 million people of all races to sign up for the Affordable Care Act in the first year.

Have questions? Call or get online

Here are some important telephone numbers and websites supporting the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Consumers can participate in online web chats by calling 1-800-318-2596. The TTY number is 1-855-889-4325.

The most-helpful website for registering for buying health insurance is: HealthCare.gov.