By Dr. Kelli Tice, MD – Health disparities have existed in society for a long time and there are several drivers that play a role, including lack of health insurance. Many studies have tied the lack of insurance coverage to higher mortality rates, due to the absence of preventive care, screenings and critical medical services — especially in African American and Hispanic populations. One way we can eliminate disparities is by making health insurance more affordable and encouraging more people to get covered.
The Affordable Care Act has allowed 2.7 million Floridians who didn’t have access to group health plans or Medicare obtain coverage. But still, there is much work to do — especially in under-resourced communities where many go without insurance. Why?
Is it that people don’t think they can afford health insurance? Four out of five people pay $10 or less each month for a health plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. In fact, many people qualify for a plan that costs them nothing out of their own pocket with the financial help the federal government provides. And the cost of going without insurance may be higher than you think. According to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, the average ER visit at a Florida hospital costs $10,000.
Is it that they don’t think they need insurance? Here are some numbers from the Department of Health and Human Services that I find disturbing. Black women get breast cancer at the same rate as white women but are 40% more likely to die from it. And Black adults are 40% more likely to have high blood pressure but are less likely to have it under control. Hispanic men are 50% more likely to die from diabetes than white men. And people in Hispanic communities are 30% to 40% more likely to have undiagnosed depression. Health insurance through the Affordable Care Act covers preventive services that could positively impact these upsetting statistics.
Is it that buying and using health insurance is too confusing? There are free resources available to help. Individuals can talk to a health navigator or a local agent they trust to help with selecting a plan. And health insurance companies have a lot of resources to help individuals understand their plan and how to get the most value from their benefits.
Everyone deserves access to quality, affordable and equitable health care. I deserve it, you deserve it, and your family deserves it!
As the Chief Health Equity Officer at Florida Blue, my work affords me the opportunity to drive health equity initiatives and influence the future of health care. We’ve created getcoveredflorida.com to help educate consumers about the importance of having coverage and how to find out if they can get financial help to pay for it.
Together we can break this barrier to ensure families have access to affordable, high-quality and convenient whole person health care that recognizes the cultural and social needs of our community members.
Kelli Tice, MD, is the Chief Health Equity Officer for GuideWell and Florida Blue.