As we continue to celebrate Black History Month and the legacy of black history as part of our American history, we reflect upon the legacy of the National Urban League which has been saving our cities for over a century, focusing on the economic empowerment of African Americans and other underserved communities. With its 90 plus affiliates across 36 states, the National Urban League has served African Americans in the key areas of jobs, justice and education since the Great Migration to today–but has also been a leader in civil rights. Historically civil rights has also included the right to quality and affordable healthcare.
At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alongside former National Urban League, President Whitney M. Young and many others, fought for the civil rights of African Americans and all Americans who faced injustice of any kind. Dr. King once said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” The risks of illness and death have been a major concern amongst African Americans for many years, and at the turn of the 21st century many of these same challenges remain the same today.
The National Urban League movement has supported the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other partners helping to raise awareness about the law and resources made available by the Department to enroll individuals in the Health Insurance Marketplace. From serving as Health Navigators to In-Person Assisters, and making over 1 million touches in outreach, the National Urban League has lent its support to helping bridge the gap for the uninsured. Through programs like Project Wellness and #DoingIt, the Urban League movement and the Department are working together, helping to improve the health of underserved communities across America providing nutrition education, health screenings, and assisting residents with securing coverage through the ACA.
Success of the ACA’s ability to provide some of America’s most underserved with quality health care is evidenced in the National Urban League’s 2015 State of Black America® Save Our Cities report. Comparing the years 2014 and 2015, our data shows that the health quality index for Blacks increased from 78.2 percent to 79.9 percent. In the same respect, the health quality index for Hispanics increased from 102.4 percent to 106.9 percent, much of what we attribute to the positive impact of the ACA. The increase in the health quality index for Blacks and Hispanics is a key indicator for economic empowerment and the goal to achieve health equity by 2020.
As we look forward, the National Urban League applauds the work of those that have come before us and the sacrifices made by those of the Civil Rights Movement to ensure that every American receive the same civil liberties as the next to include the right to quality and equitable healthcare. Our work is not finished. President Obama has seen The Dream to reality; we must now protect its virtue while continuing to close the gap of those who are uninsured.
To learn more about the ACA or how to get covered visit: localhelp.healthcare.gov to search for local help in your neighborhood.
Marc H. Morial is President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Urban League. The National Urban League (www.nul.org) is a historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization dedicated to economic empowerment in historically underserved urban communities. Founded in 1910 and headquartered in New York City, the National Urban League has improved the lives of tens of millions of people nationwide through direct service programs that are implemented locally by its over 90 Urban League affiliates in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The organization also conducts public policy research and advocacy activities from its Washington, D.C. Bureau (www. nulwb.iamempowered.com). The National Urban League, a BBB-accredited organization, has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, placing it in the top 10 percent of all U.S. charities for adhering to good governance, fiscal responsibility and other best practices.