In the past decade alone, 880,000 African Americans died because they did not have access to meaningful health care.
For people of color, life is, on average, shorter. Illness is more prevalent, and disability is more common. We live in a system that provides limited opportunities for communities of color to access health services, with fewer options for treatment, and with lower-quality care.
Communities of color are hit hard because of lower incomes and less ability to afford insurance and care. Patients of color also face greater health risks since they are less likely to live in communities with basic access to a healthy lifestyle—local hospitals or clinics with specialized services, parks and green spaces to exercise, and supermarkets where people can buy fresh food.
For this reason, the NAACP has teamed up with the National Urban League and the Black Leadership Forum to form a War Room in Washington, D.C., in order to push for real, meaningful reform in the days leading up to the House vote. We will be holding dozens of rallies, lobby days and press events across the nation.
What do we mean by “real” reform? Here’s what we are fighting for:
· A strong public option. This is crucial—it keeps insurance companies honest and creates competition in an otherwise monopolized market. Simply put, a strong public option is the only way to truly achieve real reform.
· Full, affordable and comprehensive coverage for all individuals and families, regardless of their medical history. Insurance companies must not be allowed to drop coverage for people who become seriously ill.
· Equity in access to care, treatment and resources. Currently, the color of your skin, your ethnic background and where you live do more than just influence your access to health care; they can determine the quality and cost of your care.
Low-income families and people of color have the most at stake in this national debate, and with a vote coming up as early as Friday, we have got to take control of this debate. Left unaddressed, our health-care system is unsustainable. It is crushing families and businesses, and stunting America's economic growth. We can no longer maintain a system that delays, denies and defends the lack of care.
But this won’t happen without activism and our voice. Without your involvement, real health care reform could very well fail.
I hope you will join us in this struggle. In our D.C. war room we are urging people to let their voice be heard, educating people on the health care reform bills and coordinating rallies with our communities around the country. But it won’t happen without you. Together we are the soldiers that have always made our country greater, whether we were fighting for voting rights or the desegregation of our schools, or to save an innocent man on death row. The difference between winning and losing was you. Raise your voice now. You can contact your congressional representative and get involved at our online War Room. Together we can make real reform a reality.
Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP.