Monday, April 09, 2007

President of Black America

One of the problems with our black leadership is that they do not demonstrate any foresight into the future. They have grown to be a reactionary force; a group that is swift in its response to the Katrina of the day. Black America needs leadership that possesses the ability to not only lead within the moment, but also anticipate issues that will arise in the future. I am that leader. I have listened to the constituents, engaged them in conversation concerning the future of black America, and look forward to continuing the dialogue.

One area of concern is the state of healthcare in the US. While this is truly an American problem, it hits minority communities hardest. Although only 29 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans were a majority (52 percent) of the nation’s 45 million individuals who were uninsured year-round in 2003. In that same year, 20 percent of African Americans, 33 percent of Hispanics, and 19 percent of Asians were without health insurance year round compared to 11 percent of whites.

Health disparity statistics reinforce the fact that lives are unnecessarily cut short each year largely due to preventable chronic diseases. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the age-adjusted death rate for African Americans was higher than that of whites by 41 percent for stroke, 30 percent for heart disease, 25 percent for cancer, and more than 750 percent for HIV disease in 2002. While it is true that our diets have a lot to do with that, that fact should not be used to defend current health insurance practices. It is obvious that poor individuals are less likely to receive adequate health coverage.

While I agree that government should not act as a safety net for all that ails Americans, the issue of health coverage should approached as a right, not a privilege. A lack of access to quality health care is one of the biggest and most egregious civil rights issues of our time, and it is right in front of our faces. In order to fix this, I call for universal health coverage. We are long overdue for a system that allows for all walks of life to receive proper care.

This will not be an easy lift. All levels of government will have to buy in to this system, which will require a great deal of political maneuvering. Convincing fiscal conservatives (or any conservative, for that matter) that basic civil rights are being violated may prove as hard as convincing Governor George Wallace that segregation is not ideal. As many of you know, that never happened. However, the struggle eventually led to integrated schools. That is the level of struggle that lies ahead, and I am ready to fight.

US Presidential candidate John Edwards has the most ambitious coverage plan to date. Here is an overview:

  • Families without insurance will get coverage at an affordable price.
  • Families with insurance will pay less and get more security and choices.
  • Businesses and other employers will find it cheaper and easier to insure their workers.

The Edwards Plan achieves universal coverage by:

  • Requiring businesses and other employers to either cover their employees or help finance their health insurance.
  • Making insurance affordable by creating new tax credits, expanding Medicaid and SCHIP, reforming insurance laws, and taking innovative steps to contain health care costs.
  • Creating regional "Health Markets" to let every American share the bargaining power to purchase an affordable, high-quality health plan, increase choices among insurance plans, and cut costs for businesses offering insurance.

It is necessary to note that none of this can be done without doing something that usually is political suicide: raise taxes. Paying the cost of health coverage for an additional 45 million individuals is expensive, and those dollars have to come from somewhere.

Because reaching our goal of universal health coverage is of utmost importance, I would be willing to listen to proposals that would cut the costs of other programs to help pay for this massive undertaking. It is time that we view this issue with compassion and common sense. It is our right to receive adequate health coverage, but we have to be mindful of what it will take to accomplish this.

Health care is just one of the many realities that hold our people back from a prosperous future. This issue is far too complex for me to believe that I have all of the answers. I am in this struggle with you, and as President of Black America, I want your input.

Is universal health coverage the way to go?

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