Black Leaders Join Push for Democrats’ Health Care Reform, Saying African Americans Are Particularly in Need of It

By Susan Jones | July 16, 2009 | 9:53 AM EDT

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) (Photo courtesy of Lee's Web site)

( – Several prominent African Americans say the nation’s “broken” health care system disproportionately affects blacks, and they are stressing the importance of passing the Democrats’ health care reform plan.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Democratic National Committee African American Chair Virgie M. Rollins were holding a press conference Thursday afternoon to plug health care reform.
They noted in a news release that President Barack Obama has asked Congress to pass a bill that includes three principles: lower costs; a choice of doctors and plans, including a public (government-run) plan; and quality, affordable care for all Americans.
“African Americans are disproportionately affected by the current broken health care system,” Lee and Rollins said in the news release. “Currently, 20.9% of blacks in the U.S. do not have health insurance, compared to 12.2% for whites,” they said. (They attribute the statistics to Kaiser State Health Facts.)
Lee and Rollins also noted that high blood pressure affects more than 40 percent of African Americans.
Separately, the National Medical Association -- a group representing the interests of more than 30,000 African-American physicians and their patients – also endorsed the Democrats’ Affordable Health Choices Act, introduced in the House on Tuesday and approved by the Senate health committee on Wednesday.
“The bill will provide unprecedented coverage for all Americans. This is especially important for communities of color who are a disproportionate share of the uninsured," said Carolyn Barley Britton, M.D., president of the National Medical Association.
"There are several key components that will benefit our communities across the country," Britton said. She specifically mentioned coverage and choice, affordability, cost containment, and prevention and wellness.
The NMA says it has repeatedly advocated for policies that would assure equitable and quality health care for all people.
Republicans generally agree that health care reform is necessary, but they complain that their ideas have been omitted from the Democrats’ legislation. They also question the rush to pass a massively expensive bill “that only ends up costing (Americans) more for worse care than they currently have,” as Sen. Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday.