Imagine you have a painful toothache that has gone untreated. Or a headache after squinting at the book you’re reading. Now imagine yourself in a classroom, struggling to pay attention and be engaged in class, with this pain gnawing at you.
For students in every part of our country, this has become a day-to-day reality.
A student’s health is strongly linked with his or her academic performance. The lack of health coverage – and the corresponding likelihood of poorer health – therefore makes it harder for many children in low-income and minority communities, to reach their full potential.
That’s why President Obama has asked every American who knows someone without insurance to help them get covered between now and March 31. Families and individuals can shop for plans and sign up for coverage online at HealthCare.gov; by phone at 1-800-318-2596/TTY 1-885-889-4325; by mail; or directly through an insurer, agent or broker. They can also find in-person assistance in their own community at LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov.
There are 5.7 million uninsured children in our country, including more than 730,000 African American children. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the new Health Insurance Marketplace, it’s a new day: families across the nation have greater access to quality health care.
For kids of all backgrounds, access to affordable, quality coverage means the opportunity to get regular checkups, vaccinations, depression screenings, dental care, and many other preventive services at no out-of-pocket cost to their parents or caregivers. With greater access to health care services, children will be more likely to receive the necessary care and treatment for mental health and physical illnesses that could impede their ability to perform in the classroom. We also know that parents can take better care of their children when they take care of themselves.
Already more than 9 million Americans have signed up for a private health insurance plan, or signed up for, renewed, or been determined eligible for Medicaid coverage. Plus coverage in the Marketplace is more affordable than you might think. Many people are eligible for lower costs to help pay for monthly premiums. A family of four making $50,000 in Dallas, for example, can buy a plan for as little as $26 a month after financial assistance, and $72 a month in Miami.
And for young adults who are trying to decide on a higher education or the right job, or who perhaps are focusing on managing a chronic illness, the Affordable Care Act allows them to remain covered by their parents’ plan up to age 26. More than 3 million young adults who otherwise would have been uninsured – including more than 500,000 African Americans — were able to get covered by their parents’ plan.
It is not enough to just have strong principals, top teachers, and engaged families. If a child is not healthy, then he or she is unlikely prepared to learn and develop – and contribute to their community. The Affordable Care Act is helping us make sure that more children across the nation are healthy and ready to learn.
David J. Johns is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Initiative contributes to closing the achievement gap for African American students.
To learn more about the Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Marketplace, visit www.HealthCare.gov or call (800) 318-2596.