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Ed. note: This was originally published on the HHS.gov blog.
Summary: The Affordable Care Act is great for those of us who are working in the gig economy or trying to grow our own business, big or small.
I used to work in the tech industry in the San Francisco Bay Area and got health benefits through my employer. But, when my mother got sick, I left that job to be her caregiver. Which also meant finding new health coverage.
Now I’m a Dasher, making money part-time by delivering food on DoorDash. A company in the gig economy, DoorDash allows me to make my own schedule, be my own boss, and pursue my own interests, like playing music. While the flexibility and variety is great, I needed to purchase health insurance and the Affordable Care Act helped me do that.
I try to live and eat healthy. But I have serious, life-long chronic conditions that require prescription medication and regular lab tests, so #CoverageMatters to me.
A plan that I used to have before the Affordable Care Act was bare bones and didn’t help much. As soon as Covered California, our state’s Health Insurance Marketplace, opened for business, I found a plan that fit my needs and budget. My premium last year was only $54 a month after tax credits, and only $58 a month this year. The services that I get now are very helpful and are provided faster. My health has greatly improved and my participation in life is tenfold better. I am living a marvelous life that includes dancing, playing music, contributing to society and sustaining healthy relationships.
DoorDash works with Stride Health to make it easier for Dashers to access coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Stride also provides personalized support from health advisers and pharmacy deals. DoorDash was among 17 companies that pledged to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support Marketplace Open Enrollment for their freelance professionals, entrepreneurs and customers.
The Affordable Care Act is great for those of us who are working in the gig economy or trying to grow our own business, big or small, because it allows us to pursue our passion and contribute to the community without having to find just any job with benefits. A recent Treasury report shows that the ACA’s Marketplaces are playing a key role in providing health coverage to independent workers and entrepreneurs, a growing segment of our economy.
But this security is now in jeopardy for millions of Americans, like me and other hardworking individuals who rely on the Affordable Care Act. I’m sharing my story because my #CoverageMatters. Share your own story on social media using #CoverageMatters.
Marketplace coverage is still available this year. If you’re uninsured, check out your options at HealthCare.gov to enroll in coverage that meets your needs and budget.
You need to act quickly. Open Enrollment for the Marketplace goes until January 31, 2017.
Financial assistance may be available to help you get covered like it did for me. You can get 24/7 help comparing plans and enrolling by calling 1-800-318-2596 or find in-person assistance in your community at https://localhelp.healthcare.gov.
Great philosophers have debated the meaning of life for centuries. Throughout the discourse on life’s meaning and how to live a life of purpose, you’ll find one central theme: service. That is, the joy we seek in everyday living is found in helping others. When we give of ourselves – our time, our efforts, our hearts, and our minds – we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
As this week marks the end of my tenure as an appointee of the Obama Administration serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I have been reflecting on this incredible time of public service. I am humbled by the steadfast commitment of leaders and staff to our valiant mission to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans. It has been a remarkable moment of opportunity, and I am proud to have been a part of historic change for health and health equity in our nation.
After a transformational year as a White House Fellow and subsequently serving as the Chief Medical Officer in the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, I was honored to join the Office of Minority Health in November 2011, an office steeped in history and of great consequence with a mission to improve health of minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities. The word monumental best describes the changes our nation has experienced in health and health care over the past eight years, and the Office of Minority Health has been on the frontlines of this change.
The Affordable Care Act, one of the most powerful laws in more than 50 years that will help to reduce health disparities and advance health equity, has led to the lowest rate of the uninsured on record including among racial and ethnic minorities. The department released the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities – the most comprehensive federal commitment to reducing racial and ethnic health disparities. And the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities was launched as a nationwide movement to increase the effectiveness of programs that target the elimination of health disparities through the coordination of partners, leaders, and stakeholders committed to action and by bringing attention to the social determinants of health.
As a result of these three strategic priorities, we now have agencies that require disparity impact statements as part of their grant programs; enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care (National CLAS Standards) that provide a blueprint for health and health care organizations to improve the quality of care and services for our nation’s diverse communities; and unparalleled efforts underway across many sectors, including health, education, justice, housing, labor, and transportation, to address the environmental, social, and economic conditions that impact health.
To this end, the Office of Minority Health is addressing the structural social, economic, and political influences on the health of minority communities. It’s seen in our work with the White House on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to ensure that all young people can reach their full potential, including boys and young men of color, and the White House Council on Women and Girls to address barriers and open the doors of opportunity for all Americans, including women and girls of color. And it’s seen through the novel partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice on the Minority Youth Violence Prevention grant program to help curb youth violence and improve the health and well-being of underserved and distressed communities. The future of ending health disparities and achieving health equity extends beyond the health sector – it is a future that requires closer attention to and action on the factors that shape the conditions in which people live, play, work, and learn.
That’s why communities remain at the center of the Office of Minority Health’s mission. We meet communities where they are through innovative and effective means of outreach and engagement. Efforts such as the National Workforce Diversity Pipeline grant program, the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander National Health Interview Survey and the American Indian/Alaska Native Oversample in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System help us develop the next generation of the health care workforce and improve the quality and availability of data of these populations. In other efforts, we provide culturally and linguistically appropriate responses to public health crises such as Ebola, the Flint water crisis, Zika, and help lead a national response to community trauma as a result of violence.
All of these endeavors reflect the heart of service of the Office of Minority Health. Improving the health and well-being of minority communities drives us as much today as it did when this office was established more than 30 years ago. The past two years placed a punctuation point in this history, with the 30th anniversary of the Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health (also known as the Heckler Report) and the 30th anniversary of the Office of Minority Health.
The history and impact of the Office of Minority Health have been inextricably linked to our many partners at the federal, national, state, tribal, territorial, and local levels who have been champions for health equity for decades. Over the past five years, I have had the privilege and honor of working with our longtime partners, forging innovative collaborations with new partners, visiting communities across the country, and hearing the unforgettable stories of triumph and challenge of leaders, advocates, and community members ranging from youth to our seniors. This experience left an indelible impression on my mind and my heart and affirmed my belief and optimism that together we can achieve the vision of a nation free of disparities in health and health care, a nation in which everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
In the weeks, months, and years ahead, the Office of Minority Health will continue to lead the charge in improving the health of minority populations and accelerating health equity for the nation. I feel honored and blessed to have helped lead that charge as part of the legacy of this office and will carry what we have achieved together with me always. It is a story and a journey marked by service. And by giving of ourselves, we realize what Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, is the Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Public health stakeholders from the federal to the local level are looking for ways to combat the opioid crisis. Two available resources are the Public Health 3.0 (PH3.0) framework and the ongoing work of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA), an initiative of the Office of Minority Health within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Taken together, these resources offer a solution that is as unique as the crisis itself.
PH3.0 is an initiative of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health (OASH) at HHS. OASH published Public Health 3.0: A Call to Action to Create a 21st Century Public Health Infrastructure to address the emerging public health challenges and meet the needs of the nation’s diverse communities. It is a new approach to address existing challenges in public health by focusing on a community-based, data-driven approach to alleviate health disparities. PH3.0 challenges stakeholders to address fundamental gaps in population health by focusing on the social determinants of health.
Similar to the PH3.0 mission of achieving health equity are the efforts of the NPA — a cross-sector collaborative focused on ending health disparities and achieving health equity. This comprehensive approach broadens the national dialogue on health disparities to a partnership-based movement that can be customized to address local and regional concerns.
PH3.0 is organized into five themes that reflects the existing work of the NPA, and could help local communities combat the opioid crisis:
Regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or geographic location, opioid abuse is a public health crisis that cuts across every strata of American society. The goals of PH3.0 and NPA’s implementation structure could serve as a catalyst for combating the opioid epidemic by empowering local communities to develop plans that address their unique needs and fit within the fabric of their communities.
Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, and J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health
As I’ve had the opportunity to visit communities across our nation, I have a greater appreciation for the progress we’ve made toward achieving health
equity. Many of the stories I’ve heard from men, women, young adults, and seniors from all walks of life hinge one on key piece of progress: the Affordable
Care Act. These stories of the peace of mind, freedom and security that come with knowing that they have health insurance coverage are present in every
corner of the country. Stories like that of Donnalyn Washington
who said she wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for her health coverage are a result of the historic reduction in the number of people who are uninsured
and more than 20 million people gaining coverage since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.
The Affordable Care Act has carved a new pathway in our nation’s journey toward achieving health equity. As you look across the various facets of health
and health care, you can see its indelible footprints. From the provider’s office to the community-based organization, the Affordable Care Act advances
health equity by not only making sure health insurance and preventive services are more affordable and accessible, but also taking steps to make health
care more equitable and culturally and linguistically appropriate.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 4 million Hispanic adults, 3 million African American adults, and 1 million Asian American and Pacific Islander
adults who were uninsured now have health coverage. But, we still have work to do. There are still millions of uninsured minorities who qualify for health
insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace (Marketplace). That’s why we’re asking everyone who needs health insurance to visit HealthCare.gov to update, shop for, and switch plans through January 31. Most current Marketplace consumers will
be able to find a plan for $75 or less a month in premiums after tax credits.
We must make our best efforts to ensure that individuals sign up for coverage so they can benefit from having health coverage like Donnalyn. That’s because
#CoverageMatters for the 913,000 Latinos, 509,000 African Americans and 121,000 Asian Americans between the ages of 19 and 26 who would have been uninsured
but now have coverage under their parents’ plan. And because #CoverageMatters for the more than 40 million minorities with private insurance who now have
access to certain recommended preventive services at no out-of-pocket cost, such as certain cancer screenings, immunizations and depression screening for
adolescents and adults. #CoverageMatters because when all communities are healthy, our nation prospers.
We live in a time of extraordinary change that is reshaping the way we live, the way we learn, and the way we work. Our ability to respond to the health
needs of our increasingly diverse communities is paramount to the future health of our nation as a whole. The Affordable Care Act, and the work of the HHS
Office of Minority Health, is accelerating that response to help ensure that everyone – regardless of race, ethnicity or zip code – has an equal chance at
a healthier life.
Together we are making progress. As President Obama said about the long arc of progress, it is “progress that is never assured, never guaranteed, but
always possible, always there to be earned – no matter how stuck we might seem sometimes.”
To learn more about your health coverage options, visit HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325) 24/7. Find free, confidential
in-person assistance in your local area by visiting LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov.
If you’ve already enrolled in health coverage through
, we want to hear from you.
Every story is unique
. Share your story on social media using #CoverageMatters.
Summary: We are counting on you to help spread the word about preventive health benefits and the difference the ACA has made for women’s health.
With the holiday season upon us, spending time with family and friends is our number one priority. While we are focusing on this season of giving – thinking of the right gifts to get our loved ones, lighting the menorah, and the delicious meals we will share with our guests - it’s easy to overlook the importance of taking care of ourselves.
Today marks the beginning of Women’s Week of Action, and women’s groups, including Hadassah, are spreading the word about the importance of women’s preventive services, such as cancer screenings, contraception, and well-woman visits, as well as quality, affordable health coverage.
Women notoriously postpone or forgo medical care so they have the time or money to give to others. One in four women reports delaying or skipping care because of cost and, regardless of income, a quarter of women also cite lack of time as a barrier to care. How many of us have cancelled a doctor’s appointment when our son or daughter’s sports team makes the play-offs and never rescheduled it? How many times has an annual physical sat unchecked at the bottom of our to-do list—below business trips, holiday shopping, and taking our parents or children to their appointments?
Often, preventive health services are the first to go, but they are actually the most essential. Preventive health services promote wellness, disease prevention, and early detection, empowering women with knowledge to make appropriate and informed medical decisions for themselves and their families. For years, health advocates have encouraged women to schedule their yearly mammograms on their birthdays. This time of year, we encourage women to book a well-woman visit, during which a woman will receive a full checkup and services, as well as set health goals with her doctor.
Being prepared by having health coverage is also a major part of ensuring that you and your loved ones will have a healthy lifestyle. If you do not already have coverage through an employer, membership organization or another source, you have access to affordable, quality plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov. Thanks to provisions of the Affordable Care Act, all health insurers are required to cover essential health benefits, like pregnancy, maternity and newborn care, and recommended preventive services at no out-of-pocket cost.
Unfortunately, many women remain unaware that these services exist. We are counting on you to help spread the word about preventive health benefits and the difference the ACA has made for women’s health.
How You Can Help
Ellen Hershkin is the National President of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., which supports cutting-edge medical care and research in Israel. In the U.S. it empowers women through health education and advocacy. Earlier this year, Hadassah founded the Coalition for Women’s Health Equity to raise awareness about #HealthEquity4Her and promote for gender equity in medicine—from prevention and diagnosis, to treatment and cure.
Emily Barson, a Life Member of Hadassah, serves as the Director of Intergovernmental and External Affairs (IEA) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this capacity, she provides advice to Secretary Sylvia Burwell on the Department’s work with governmental and non-governmental stakeholders across the country.
 The Kaiser Family Foundation. (2014). Women and Health Care in the Early Years of the Affordable Care Act. Retrieved from: https://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/8590-women-and-health-care-in-the-early-years-of-the-affordable-care-act.pdf.