October 1 is looming large for President Barack Obama – and the nation.

Four days before a potential government shut down, Republicans are holding Obama’s Affordable Care Act hostage.

The budget fight between Democrats and Republicans is all about the Affordable Care Act – or “ObamaCare” as Republicans call it. If Congress doesn’t vote to approve funding, large sections of the federal government could shut down and some federal employees could be furloughed immediately.

Obama’s Affordable Care Act starts Oct. 1 when Americans can begin to buy health insurance through a new federally run health-care service at reduced costs.

In fact, First Lady Michelle Obama says the majority of people without insurance will now be able to find a health care plan for under $100 a month.

“You’re going to be able to purchase high-quality health insurance for less than the cost of your cell phone bill,” the president said.

But critics of the law insist that Obama’s plan will dramatically increase premiums and Senate Republicans want to de-fund the initiative and scrap the law.

With polls showing that many Americans don’t understand the law, Obama delivered a speech Thursday at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland to explain his plan in simpler terms.

Obama said when consumers can sign up for insurance – from October 1 through March of 2014 –the average American will have 53 different plans to choose from and 95 percent of uninsured Americans will see their premiums cost much less than expected. He said the Affordable Care Act will help make health insurance coverage more affordable and accessible for millions of Americans.

“Tell your friends, tell your classmates, tell your family members,” Obama told a cheering crowd. “We need you to spread the word” about the law to counter those “working to make it fail” and have set up “every conceivable roadblock.”

He mocked Republicans as threatening to shut down the government if he won’t agree to “gut” Obamacare.

“Think about it,” Obama said, “Shutting down the government just because you don’t like a law that was passed and found Constitutional.”

Regarding a government shutdown, Obama said: “Even if you believe that Obamacare somehow was going to hurt the economy, it won’t hurt the economy as bad as a government shutdown.”

It’s no coincidence that Obama selected Prince George’s Community College to deliver his message because supporters of the law are eager for young, healthy people to sign up for coverage to lower premiums for all participants. Obama is also speaking in Prince George’s County — a county that is 65 percent black – at a time when many black Americans say they are also confused by the health law.

So how does the Affordable Care Act impact you?

David Simas, a Senior Advisor to the Obama administration, said Americans will still be able to buy health care insurance through the Affordable Care Act even during a government shut-down.

For African Americans, Obama advisors say, the law will address inequities and will increase access to quality, affordable health coverage, invest in prevention and wellness, and give individuals and families more control over their care.

African Americans suffer from obesity, heart disease, and diabetes at higher levels than the general population. For example, in 2010, 37 percent of African Americans were obese, compared to 26% of whites1. Expanding opportunities for coverage can improve health outcomes for African Americans.

Already, Obama advisers said, the Affordable Care Act has benefitted the nearly 85% of Americans who already have insurance:

•       3.1 million young adults have gained coverage through the parents’ plans

•       6.6 million seniors are paying less for prescription drugs

•       105 million Americans are paying less for preventative care & no longer face lifetime coverage limits

•       13.1 million Americans have received rebates from insurance companies

•       17 million children with pre-existing conditions no longer denied coverage or charged extra

Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will provide 6.8 million uninsured African Americans an opportunity to get affordable health insurance coverage.

Here are 10 things African Americans should know about the Affordable Care Act leading up to the Oct. 1 deadline.

•       An estimated 7.3 million African Americans with private insurance now have access to expanded preventive services with no cost sharing. These services include well-child visits, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, Pap tests and mammograms for women, and flu shots for children and adults.

•       The 4.5 million elderly and disabled African Americans who receive health coverage from Medicare also have access to many preventive services with no cost-sharing, including annual wellness visits with personalized prevention plans, diabetes and colorectal cancer screening, bone mass measurement and mammograms.

More than 500,000 young African American adults between ages 19 and 25 who would otherwise have been uninsured now have coverage under their parent’s employer-sponsored or individually purchased health plan.

•       Major federal investments to improve quality of care are improving management of chronic diseases more prevalent among African Americans.

•       The health care workforce will be more diverse due to a near tripling of the National Health Service Corps. African American physicians make up about 17 percent of Corps physicians, a percentage that greatly exceeds their 6 percent share of the national physician workforce.

•       Investments in data collection and research will help us better understand the causes of health care disparities and develop effective programs to eliminate them.

•       Targeted interventions, such as Community Transformation Grants, will promote healthy lifestyles, lower health care costs, and reduce health disparities.

•       Increased funding available to more than 1,100 community health centers will increase the number of patients served. One of every five patients at a health center is African American.

•       6.8 million uninsured African Americans will have new opportunities for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.  Of the 6.8 million uninsured African Americans who are eligible for coverage through the Marketplace, 56 percent are men.

•       The Marketplace is a destination where consumers can compare insurance options in simple, easy to understand language. At the Marketplace, consumers will be able to compare insurance options based on price, benefits, quality and other factors with a clear picture of premiums and cost-sharing amounts to help them choose the insurance that best fits their needs.

Below are a few frequently asked questions with links to answers:

How can I get ready to enroll in the Marketplace?

How can I get lower costs on Marketplace coverage?

What if I have job-based insurance?

Do I qualify for Medicaid?

How do I get help enrolling in the Marketplace?

For more information on and answers to your Obamacare questions, go to or call 1-800-318-2596.

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