As recent protests have highlighted, entrenched inequalities plague nearly every aspect of American society. Persistent and pernicious inequalities exist within our health care system, and a dangerous Republican-led lawsuit threatens to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA is giving people of color advantages they never had before in terms of access to health care. If it’s taken away, it will be one of the worst things that could happen to communities of color. Senator Gardner has remained silent on the lawsuit, making him complicit in this reckless attempt to rip away our health care. We need him to fight for the ACA.
The facts are startling. Black and Latinx are three times more likely to get coronavirus, and twice as likely to die from it as their white counterparts. And a recent report from the state health department revealed that while Hispanics make up roughly 22 percent of the state’s population, they make up 28 percent of Colorado’s coronavirus cases. And, since fewer than one-in-five Latinos can work from home, they face a greater risk of contracting the virus. These health disparities are also on display when it comes to maternal mortality and even cancer. Black mothers are more than three times as likely to die in childbirth as white women and the Black infant mortality rate is twice that of white babies. Blacks also have the highest death rates from all cancers compared with whites.
As a cancer survivor, knowing that Blacks have the highest death rates both scares and disgusts me. We cannot accept these outcomes, nor can we be complacent when our access to health care is under threat.
The ACA has increased access to care and strengthened protections for 20 million Americans, three million of whom are Black. That said, serious inequalities still exist. Nationally, in 2018 the uninsured rate for Blacks was 9.7% , but just 5.4% among whites. Meanwhile, the Latinx community continues to have the highest uninsured rate in the US, with 17.8% of the Hispanic population not covered by health insurance in 2017.
Destroying the ACA would almost certainly lead to greater health disparities and poorer outcomes given that it would rip away health care from millions of Black and Brown Americans.
When Senator Gardner was first elected to the Senate, he pledged to be an independent voice for Coloradans. He said that he would protect the health care of Coloradans, especially those with pre-existing conditions. However, while in Congress, he has voted against the Affordable Care Act seven times, with no replacement plan, choosing to stand by his own party. Time and time again he has sided with special interests over the interests of Coloradans. Ripping away our health care puts Black and brown lives in jeopardy.
I have tried to address some of these health inequities at the state level, proposing bills that would address the high maternal mortality rate among Black women and encourage health insurance to cover secondary breast imagery. These bills are intended to bridge the equity gap that women of color often face.
A repeal of the Affordable Care Act is dangerous. It would mean giving health insurers the right to once again deny coverage for a pre-existing condition, or women being charged higher premiums simply for being a woman. And we would almost certainly see an increase in the already unacceptably high uninsured rates for Black and brown Americans.
A repeal of the ACA is a matter of life or death. Senator Cory Gardner’s silence demonstrates that he is complicit in the repeal lawsuit. It’s time he stands up as a leader and does whatever he can to stop the Trump Administration from moving forward on this dangerous lawsuit. Senator Gardner needs to start defending the Affordable Care Act because Black and Brown lives depend on it.
— Janet Buckner is a state representative for House District 40, also serving as the Speaker Pro Temp for the House