By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
Sept. 11, 2009 â€“ When America has a cold, African Americans have the flu.Â 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?Â
On Thursday I spoke with the presidentâ€™s top White House advisor to hear firsthand what the presidentâ€™s reform couldÂ mean for African Americans.Â Nancy Ann DeParle, the health care czar praised the presidentâ€™s address to the joint session of Congress, â€śIt was a great speech and the president is determined to get this done,â€ť she said.
DeParle, the former administrator for the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid told me African Americans could benefit from the presidentâ€™s plan because of health disparities that exist in the community.Â [Blacks suffer higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease compared to their White counter parts.]Â â€śIf they have insurance theyâ€™ll have stability and security and protection they havenâ€™t had before,â€ť she said.
And the uninsured will have access to affordable insurance options that offer choice, she said.Â Â When I asked if the president was backing away from the public option, DeParle maintained that there are â€śdifferent types of public option plansâ€ť with various payment rates, but all work toward the same goal: creating â€śaffordable options.â€ť
DeParle echoed the presidentâ€™s support for the public option.Â The administration maintains it will keep the insurance companies honest and the not-for-profit insurer wouldÂ help keep cost downÂ for everyone who wants to purchaseÂ health insurance.Â â€śWhen there is no competition people donâ€™t often get treated right,â€ť DeParle said.
Itâ€™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 presidentâ€™s plan.Â She noted Sen. John McCainâ€™s (R-Ariz.) suggestion to create a high risk pool for very sick individuals as one.Â â€śThere are Republican ideas in the plan the president talked about last night,â€ť she said.
MovingÂ forward the goals continues to be creatingÂ affordable health care, keeping cost deficit natural, and slowing overall Â cost growth.Â Â DeParle noted,Â for this to happenÂ they [Congress]Â just need to â€śfind a sweet spotâ€ť where everyone can come together.
That may be the tough part.