How Obamacare Will Help Heal Blacks

African Americans who face a health crisis have the most to gain when the bill goes into effect.

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"In the black community, there are health disparities -- higher rates of obesity, diabetes, asthma, certain types of cancer. Part of that has been because of a lack of health insurance. Not having health insurance is the most significant driver of health disparities in our community," said Gracia. "More than 20 percent in the black community don't have access to quality care, don't have access to the services that will keep us healthy."

Before the ACA, insurance companies could deny people from coverage for pre-existing conditions. Women were charged premiums up to 50 percent higher than men. "Just being a woman was considered a pre-existing condition," Gracia said.

In January 2014, when coverage kicks in for plans purchased by Dec. 15, millions of Americans will have access to affordable health care. Some provisions of the health care law, signed in March 2009, are already in place, benefiting millions of black people:

* About 7 million African Americans with private insurance have access to expanded preventive services without having to spend a cent. These services include blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, colonoscopies, flu shots, Pap smears and mammograms for women, and well-child visits. (For a complete list of expanded preventive services, click here.)

* The 4.5 million elderly and disabled African Americans covered by Medicare also have access to an expanded list of preventive services with no cost-sharing, including annual wellness visits, diabetes, colorectal cancer and osteoporosis screening and mammograms.

* More than 500,000 African Americans between ages 19 and 25 who would have been uninsured have coverage through a provision of the ACA that allows them to stay under their parents' health plans whether they're in college or in the workforce.

By 2016 an estimated 7 million African Americans who would otherwise be uninsured will gain coverage. The health law will also provide these benefits in 2014:

* Medicaid coverage expands to include low-income Americans (about $15,400 for an individual or $31,400 for a family of four). This expansion includes adults without dependent children, who previously have not been eligible. Currently, adults who don't have children "don't qualify for Medicaid no matter how poor they may be," says Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy.

* Individuals with higher incomes (up to 400 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, about $92,200 for a family of four) will be eligible to purchase subsidized coverage from the marketplace.

* People with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage. (This already applies to children.)