In celebration of Black History Month, Protect Our Care is highlighting important steps under the American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act to reduce disparities in access to quality, comprehensive health care by expanding coverage, reducing costs, and improving care in the communities where it is most needed.
Protect Our Care’s dedication to protecting these coverage gains and making health care even more affordable and more equitable for the American people is driven by a broader commitment to tackling systemic inequities that persist due to racism and discrimination. The Biden-Harris administration and Democrats in Congress have been working to advance health equity through measures that address health care access and quality as a driver of health such as lowering prescription drug costs, expanding Medicaid coverage, and tackling the maternal health crisis. Democratic policymakers have also championed multi-sector policies that are also needed to address basic conditions that affect health and related outcomes, particularly for Black Americans and other marginalized communities. Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement:
“This Black History Month we are celebrating the continuous progress made by lawmakers to make health care more affordable, accessible, and equitable and a right for every American. Leaders like Vice President Kamala Harris, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood, are taking critical steps to secure health care for every American all while making history. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have promised to continue their ongoing threats to roll back this progress by voting to dismantle safeguards for Medicaid unwinding, threatening to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, and blocking a universal $35 insulin cap — all of which disproportionately harm communities of color.”
Lowering Prescription Costs
Millions of people in Medicare still struggle to pay for life-saving prescriptions or treatments, with Black Medicare beneficiaries being nearly twice as likely than White Medicare beneficiaries to stop taking a prescription due to cost. This is a two-fold problem of drug companies continuing to increase prices and Black seniors having to foot the bill for these price increases. From 2016 to 2021 alone, costs for specialty prescription drugs increased by 43 percent while some drug prices increased by rates of over 500 percent. The Inflation Reduction Act addresses these outrageous skyrocketing prices by requiring that manufacturers whose drug prices increase faster than that of the inflation rate will have to pay Medicare a rebate. This will not only save the government billions of dollars, but will drastically reduce out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries. As well, the Inflation Reduction Act will implement by 2025 a $2,000 annual cap for out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs, saving Black families on average $1,216 every year.
Capping Insulin Costs
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Black adults are almost 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. As well, around 29 percent of adults aged 65 and older are diagnosed with diabetes, making it the most common chronic illness in the United States, with 1.6 times more Black seniors having been diagnosed than White seniors, despite 74 percent of seniors being white and only 9 percent identifying as African American. Insulin manufacturers have raised retail prices over 600 percent in the last 20 years, limiting the ability of low-income diabetics, who are disproportionately people of color, from accessing lifesaving treatment. Under the Inflation Reduction Act though, insulin prices have now been capped at $35 a month. This will save each individual Black senior who uses Medicaid up to $1,500 annually.
Expanding Vaccine Programs
White Americans are nearly twice as likely to have received the shingles vaccine than Black Americans and this is not the only area where vaccination programs highlight a consistent racial disparity. Much of these inequities can be traced back to cost and lack of access to this vital form of preventive health care. The Inflation Reduction Act aims to begin tackling this vast issue by making more vaccines available to Medicare Part D recipients with no cost-sharing. Free vaccines for more Black seniors means reducing hospitalizations, fewer complications in other health problems, and a more sustainable and equitable health system.
Bringing Down Uninsurance Rates
According to HHS reports, an estimated 2,954,000 more Americans, including nearly half a million Black Americans, will have access to health insurance next year compared to without the Inflation Reduction Act. Studies show that individuals having health insurance leads to more access to care, reduced financial strains, and better health outcomes – all of which advance health equity. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, racial disparities in insurance rates have been falling and President Biden’s promise to build upon it has led to some of the lowest uninsured rates in history.
Extending Premium Savings
The premium savings continued through the American Rescue Act and extended by the Inflation Reduction Act have made more than 65 percent of uninsured Black adults eligible for zero dollar premium plans. Nearly 75 percent of uninsured Black adults can now also access plans for less than $50 a month. The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities estimates the continuation of these increased savings will cause a sharp decline in the uninsured rate across every racial group, with a projected one in three uninsured Black adults gaining coverage.