Health disparities emerge on modern civil rights front

Like your health care policy? You may be losing it

Many consumers who buy their own health insurance could get a cancellation notice this fall because their current policies don't meet basic standards under President Barack Obama's health care law. They'll have to find replacement plans, state regulators say. (ASSOCIATED PRESS / Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

Individual lives change to change communities The center’s latest program is the Mount Auburn Block by Block model, a resident-led education program that has gone door-to-door in the hilltop neighborhood of 6,700 residents with information on diet and exercise. Besides the new walking groups, cooking classes and other education sessions are planned. Howard Martin, 40, an unemployed diabetic who lives with his elderly parents, earned a stipend by walking the neighborhood to deliver pamphlets. The money was enough to buy medicine to treat his diabetes. “I got involved to save myself,” Martin said. “I don’t get the splitting headaches any more. I’m jogging now. I feel better.” On Aug. 10, the Health Gap and local National Action Network chapter sponsored a screening of the documentary “Soul Food Junkies.” The film examines soul food, such as fried chicken and barbecued pork, as part of black cultural identity and measures its often-negative effects on African-American health. Joyce Edwards, 68, spoke during a post-screening discussion, saying how she changed to a vegetarian diet 10 years ago when she started having to take medicine to treat high blood pressure. “I was always a little chunky thing,” said Edwards, who now makes and drinks carrot juice, “but I lost 20, 25 pounds by changing my diet and starting to walk at least three times a week.” She now looks more optimistically at a longer and better quality life and no longer has to take blood-pressure medicine. Hospitals, churches key players in movement Hospitals and predominantly black churches play vital roles in increasing awareness and decreasing disparities. Overall, 112 black churches regionally have expanded their health ministries in recent years with the help of the Center for Closing the Health Gap.

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In Washington state, the changes will affect more than 400,000 people, said Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler. Marquis said she expects the premiums for replacement plans to be similar to current ones, but with better coverage. Your costs involve more than your premiums, Marquis explained. Its also what you would have to pay out of pocket if you had actually used your health plan. Others see an encroaching nanny state. Youre going to be forcibly upgraded, said Bob Laszewski, a health care industry consultant. Its like showing up at the airline counter and being told, You have no choice, $300 please. Youre getting a first-class ticket, why are you complaining? Obamas promise dates back to June of 2009, when Congress was starting to grapple with overhauling the health care system to cover uninsured Americans. Later that summer, public anxieties about changes would erupt at dozens of angry congressional town hall meetings with constituents. If you like your health care plan, youll be able to keep your health care plan, period, the president reassured the American Medical Association. No one will take it away, no matter what. At the time, some saw the promise as too broad, given that health plans are constantly being changed by the employers that sponsor them or by insurers directly. Nonetheless, Democrats in Congress devised a complicated scheme called grandfathering to try to deliver on Obamas pledge.

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