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Why the Racial and Political Divide over the Affordable Care Act?

By: Deanna Watson
Blog Category: Race & Healthcare

The United States is divided racially divided over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or ObamaCare. In general, research shows that whites are the least supportive of this healthcare reform.[1] Despite not one single Republican voice in Congress, ACA was a major legislative achievement for President Barack Obama.[2] However when Republicans took control of congress in 2010, the Republicans in the House of Representatives symbolically voted unanimously to repeal the law.[3] Among other benefits, ACA extends the age of dependents able to be covered under their parents’ healthcare plan; insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions; and it extends Medicare benefits for the growing populations of our nation’s senior citizens.

With all of these new or expanded benefits, it is unclear why it is so poorly supported by many whites and Republicans. Already, 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.[4] Women (as well as the general population) have more access to preventative care and treatment.[5] Logically, when there is more access to prevention, the whole country and globe is better for it.

In reference to race, the ACA will level out the inequalities among races’ access to healthcare. Blacks suffer from higher rates of a range of illnesses as compared to the general population.[6] Blacks have the highest mortality rate of any racial and ethnic group for all cancers combined and for most major cancers, including stomach, liver, prostate, and colon cancers.[7]

An especially interesting provision of ACA is that insurers will be held more accountable. Health insurers must justify any rate increase of 10% or more before the increase takes effect.[8] It is clear that the healthcare system is a broken system. With the rising costs of healthcare, it just does not make sense that this issue polarizes the country the way it has.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 


[1] Mollyann Brodie et. al., Regional Variations in Public Opinion on the Affordable Care Act, 36 J. Health Pol. Pol’y & L. 1097, 1101 (2011).

[2] Michael Henderson & D. Sunshine Hillygus, The Dynamics of Health Care Opinion, 2008 – 2010: Partisanship, Self-Interest, and Racial Resentment, 36 J. Health Pol. Pol’y & L. 945, 945 (2011).

[3] Id.

[4] U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., The Affordable Care Act and African Americans, http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/factsheets/2012/04/aca-and-african-americans04122012a.html (last visited Oct. 11, 2013) [hereinafter ACA and African Americans].

[5] U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., The Affordable Care Act and Women, http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/factsheets/2012/03/women03202012a.html (last visited Oct. 11, 2013).

[6] ACA and African Americans, supra note 4.

[7] Id.

[8] U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., Rate Review, http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/insurance/premiums/rate-review.html (last visited Oct. 11, 2013).

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