What Black Women Can Teach You About Health Care

Friday, March 28, 2014

Open enrollment has become a household term thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but healthcare has long been a challenge for Black women and families, who too often face economic and cultural barriers in accessing basic health care. Echoing Ida, a project of Forward Together to support the thought leadership and analysis of Black women, set out to tell our own stories of navigating this new health care system--shedding light on how we approach and experience health.
Idas support one another in writing fiercely.

As the Ida's are known to do, their pieces brought attention to issues seldom talked about in mainstream media and social justice circles: from Black women dying in childbirth to navigating one's doctor's office as a queer woman. While it seems that decision-makers are continuously deciding against our health, our voices, our stories--we know the solutions are ready. We continue to stand for our health and that of our communities. Let these powerful stories enlighten and inspire you to take action--enrolling for health care by March 31 and advocating for the kind of care we all deserve. All the while we'll be by your side beating the drum for better, more expansive health care for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

In "Improving health equity in Georgia," Malika Redmond addresses how Medicaid expansion would help a create healthier future for thousands of Georgians and the medical facilities that serve them.
Having health insurance and access to care is not simply an issue of health, but also one of economics and human rights. Expanding Medicaid to more Georgians at or near the poverty line is not just the right thing to do – it’s what our state and the rest of the deep south wants to do...Atlanta’s Grady Hospital and the 174 hospitals affiliated with the Georgia Hospital Association agree that expanding Medicaid would ensure the financial stability of their facilities who serve those without insurance. It will also help reduce the health disparities that already affect communities of color, disparities that will continue to grow if we do nothing. Half of Georgia’s 1.6 million uninsured will gain coverage if we expand Medicaid.
Medical mistrust is a major issue in communities of color. For the Affordable Care Act to truly impact these communities Amber J. Phillips outlines what needs to be done to address this issue and get people enrolled. Here's what she notes in "Love Thy Self Fiercely: How Self-Love Makes for Better Health Care":

Though the Obama administration has nearly solved the functionality of the ACA website as a barrier to enrollment and extended the enrollment deadline to March 31, the fear and distrust communities of color have toward our medical system may prove to be a greater roadblock if they continue to be ignored...As navigators and organizations continue to go into communities of color to enroll people in the ACA, we need to acknowledge the historical and current failures of the medical care system in communities of color as well as push for cultural competency to further increase Black communities’ access to care. This looks like ensuring that medical professionals are trained to be culturally competent and aware as well as intentionally making attempts to rectify the fear communities of color feel toward the medical system. This will go a long way in encouraging people of color to do more than enroll in health care but to proactively access medical care that sees us as whole beings. We must understand and promote that quality health care is culturally competent health care.
The Affordable Care Act will likely also bring many more LGBTQ people into the health care system. In "Exam Rooms and Bedrooms: Navigating Queer Sexual Health," Taja Lindley writes about the need for greater provider education in dealing with LGBTQ patients.
With the roll-out of Obamacare, thousands of previously uninsured LGBTQ folks who haven’t seen a health-care provider in years are navigating plans, finding providers, and likely going through this same trial and error that I did to find someone who gets them. Thankfully, there are resources to aid in this journey, and yet the exam room isn’t the only place where the conversation is awkward and where their questions will be sometimes avoided.
In providing affordable access to health services, the ACA has the power to improve health in communities of color and low-income communities through preventative care. In her piece, Stress Kills: Economic Insecurity and Black Women’s Maternal Health Outcomes, Elizabeth Dawes Gay outlines how economic justice can eliminate the stresses that cause health disparities for Black women.
Earning a low income and living in impoverished areas not only directly impedes access to health-care services, but indirectly affects health outcomes through the stress of financial insecurity. The Center for American Progress asserts that “the best ticket out of poverty is a job that pays a living wage.”
As the ACA is implemented, there also needs to be significant work to challenge long held stereotypes among providers. "Chronic Pain, and the Denial of Care for Black Women" details Alex Moffet Bateau's experiences in navigating the health care system as a young Black woman dealing with a chronic illness. Depending on where she was living in the country, her identity created frustrating barriers to accessing necessary services.
I never had any problem with pharmacists or doctors during the six years I lived in Chicago, but after I moved to Virginia to finish my dissertation in 2012 I was frequently accused of being a drug seeker, doctors refused to treat me, and pharmacists regularly interrogated me...Overall, research finds that doctors are more likely to discriminate against Black patients who are seeking pain management.
We are in the early stages of the Affordable Care Act implementation and there are a host of challenges to ensure marginalized communities are getting the support they need. As we continue on this road to increase and improved health care access, the Echoing Ida team will be raising our voices so that others may find theirs and we'll all be heard loud and clear.

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