We all know that preventive care saves not only money but also lives. For far too long before health care reform, millions of Americans — a disproportionate number of whom were ethnic-minority, rural or low-income women — were forced to forgo or postpone the care that could stop or catch illnesses and diseases at their earliest and most treatable stages simply because of cost. Before the Affordable Care Act, millions of our most vulnerable residents, living in underserved communities and having medical needs that exceeded their financial resources, were diagnosed with late stages of heart disease, cancer and other conditions — when they are most difficult to treat and cure — because they lacked reliable access to affordable preventive care, such as annual wellness exams, mammograms and colonoscopies.
In fact, prior to health care reform, 20 percent (pdf) of African-American women were not up-to-date on their Pap smears, and 1 in 3 African-American women were not up-to-date on their mammograms. As a result of not having reliable access to needed health care before the Affordable Care Act, millions of American women died prematurely, and often from preventable causes, during their most productive years.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of women will get greater control over their health care over the coming months through access to eight new prevention-related health care services, including everything from contraception to well-women visits, without paying more out of their own pockets. Not only does this mean that millions of Americans will begin living healthier lives, but they will no longer have to choose between lifesaving care and putting food on the table for their families or paying their rent or utilities to keep themselves and their families safe and sound.
Because of health care reform, we — as a nation — are finally on a path that will reduce not only gender but also racial, ethnic and geographic health disparities; save billions of dollars; and create desperately needed jobs. As a woman, a doctor and the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, I know that my constituents and fellow Americans not only will see the benefits but also will enjoy the good health that follows, for years to come. And the next time I hear anyone say anything about “Obamacare,” I will remember that we have that law today because President Obama does care.
Rep. Donna Christensen (D-U.S. Virgin Islands) is the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust.
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