For the first time in seven years, my colleague Nida Khan will have health insurance.
Nida, who is one of 48 million uninsured Americans, eagerly signed up for the Affordable Care Act when the government began offering health insurance at reduced costs on Oct. 1.
“I only go to the doctor when I’m tired of self-diagnosing and cold medicine simply will not suffice,” Nida, an independent journalist and radio producer, wrote for The Huffington Post. “These past seven years have been a combination of uncertainty and gambling with my own health.”
Since 2006, when Nida lost her full-time job and her health benefits, she has prayed that she wouldn’t get sick. She’s been paying all of her medical bills out of pocket, but life is unpredictable and one day she did suffer from a bacterial infection.
“All I remember is being very ill for several months to the point where everyone constantly told me I looked pale and needed rest,” said Nida, who has also written essays for Essence magazine and The Grio.
“I remember going from community health center to community health center trying to get an answer,” she wrote. “I recall the frustration of not being able to go to a doctor that knew my history, and that could really dedicate time to diagnosing what was wrong.”
Nida isn’t alone.
African Americans and people of color make up more than 20 percent of the 48 million Americans who are living without health care insurance. Obama said the majority of people without insurance are now able to find a health care plan for under $100 a month – which in some cases could be cheaper than a cell phone bill.
Anton J. Gunn, Director of External Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has spent the past few days answering a myriad of questions from black Americans who want immediate information about Obamacare.
Gunn is helping the Obama administration explain the Affordable Care Act to black folks all across the country.
“People need this information,” Gunn told me. “It’s very important.”
For African Americans and people of color, the new health 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, Obama says.
The president said more than six million people visited the website HealthCare.gov the day it opened on Oct. 1 and nearly 200,000 people phoned the call center.
“I’ve literally had a countdown to this day, as I’m sure so many others have too,” Nida wrote about the open enrollment. “We, the millions of Americans who are uninsured and underinsured, are not lazy. We’re hard-working Americans who despite our efforts and good intentions cannot afford premiums designed for businesses and corporations.”
As Nida searches for an affordable health care plan, Republicans have shut down the federal government for the first time in 17 years specifically to derail Obama’s Affordable Care Act. But despite the GOP roadblocks, Obamacare is moving forward anyway.
For Republicans, it’s all about blocking Obama’s legislative agenda until he leaves office. It’s hateful, reckless, petty and mean-spirited. And unfortunately for 800,000 federal employees who have been forced on furloughs, this is how congressional Republicans legislate: by hijacking America.
It’s now Day 10 of the government shutdown.
“This is not about spending. And this isn’t about fiscal responsibility,” Obama said. “This whole thing is about one thing: the Republican obsession with dismantling the Affordable Care Act and denying affordable health insurance to millions of Americans. That’s all this has become about. That seems to be the only thing that unites the Republican Party these days.”
Even though Nida wants the government shutdown resolved soon, carrying a valid health insurance card for the first time in seven years is paramount.
“I remember the embarrassment of finally accepting charity care as a last resort when things reached a tipping point during this time period several years ago,” Nida wrote. “All of this because I, like millions of Americans, don’t have health insurance.”
But in the weeks to come, Nida, like many other Americans, will finally be able to walk into a doctor’s office and pay for health coverage they can afford.
Thanks to Obamacare.