Despite the recent Republican-led vote in the House of Representatives to repeal the healthcare reform bill signed into law last year, many Demo­crats are confident the repeal will not go any further. What many Demo­crats and those in President Barack Obama’s administration do fear is the likelihood Republicans will vote to defund programs in the healthcare bill, essentially making them ineffective.

GARTH GRAHAM, deputy assistant secretary for minority health.

In a White House conference call on Jan. 18, the day before the house vote, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and Garth Graham, deputy assistant secretary for minority health, explained the impact this could have on the Black community. Voting almost totally down party lines, the house voted 245-189 to repeal the law, with three democrats voting with the GOP.

“This new law represents the most significant federal effort to help eliminate and close the gap in health disparities and health inequities that exist within our country. Eight million African-Americans are uninsured or underinsured. Minority populations are disproportionately affected by chronic diseases,” Graham said. “Any effort to try to chip away from this law is not going to be beneficial to minority communities.”

After pleading their case against the repeal of the healthcare bill in the House, the White House conceded that it would be very unlikely for the repeal to pass through the Senate or the President’s veto power. However, they explained how republican action to defund programs such as minority health centers and preventative care would hurt African-American communities.

Primarily, the call focused on pre-existing conditions and the bill’s provision that prohibits insurers from denying coverage to applicants with pre-existing conditions. According to the White House, one in two African-Americans is affected by pre-existing conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure and cancer.

To garner support from those who are already insured, the White House said the bill would keep insurance providers accountable by forcing them to justify why their rates are going up. They also said the economy has seen average job creation of 116 jobs per month since the healthcare law was passed.

“This law isn’t just about protecting people who don’t have health insurance; it’s for people who do,” Graham said. “One of the leading causes of bankruptcy is medical debt. The majority of the people who go into medical debt have health insurance like you and me.”

They also explained how the expansion of Medicaid could provide insurance for an estimated 4 million African-Americans and highlighted the bill’s benefits for young adults.

“Families watched their insurance payments go up every year while their benefits declined. Millions of Americans who need healthcare the most were unable to buy healthcare. Under the repeal, more than one million young adults would lose the care they get under their parents’ plan.”

Meanwhile it is unclear when the healthcare repeal bill will come up for a vote in the Senate and whether or not it will at all. Republican Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey did not return several requests for comment on the republican position on healthcare reform.

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