By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
Sept. 11, 2009 – When America has a cold, African Americans have the flu. And with health care reform the number one issue now driving economic policy the old adages is taking on a whole new meaning for Black families.
Do I need to remind you Black communities represent a disproportionate number of the unemployed, underinsured and uninsured?
On Thursday I spoke with the president’s top White House advisor to hear firsthand what the president’s reform could mean for African Americans. Nancy Ann DeParle, the health care czar praised the president’s address to the joint session of Congress, “It was a great speech and the president is determined to get this done,” she said.
DeParle, the former administrator for the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid told me African Americans could benefit from the president’s plan because of health disparities that exist in the community. [Blacks suffer higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease compared to their White counter parts.] “If they have insurance they’ll have stability and security and protection they haven’t had before,” she said.
And the uninsured will have access to affordable insurance options that offer choice, she said. When I asked if the president was backing away from the public option, DeParle maintained that there are “different types of public option plans” with various payment rates, but all work toward the same goal: creating “affordable options.”
DeParle echoed the president’s support for the public option. The administration maintains it will keep the insurance companies honest and the not-for-profit insurer would help keep cost down for everyone who wants to purchase health insurance. “When there is no competition people don’t often get treated right,” DeParle said.
It’s still debateable how large of an olive branch Obama extended across the aisle Wednesday, but DeParle pointed to suggestions from Republicans already included in the president’s plan. She noted Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) suggestion to create a high risk pool for very sick individuals as one. “There are Republican ideas in the plan the president talked about last night,” she said.
Moving forward the goals continues to be creating affordable health care, keeping cost deficit natural, and slowing overall cost growth. DeParle noted, for this to happen they [Congress] just need to “find a sweet spot” where everyone can come together.
That may be the tough part.