POLITICS
01/28/2016 10:56 am ET Updated Jan 28, 2017

Helping African-Americans Get Covered This Open Enrollment

B Busco via Getty Images

When Adriane Head lost her job in 2007, like too many Americans, she also lost her health insurance. And after a health scare in 2015, she knew that she needed the safety and security that health insurance provides.

Luckily, Adriane heard about the Health Insurance Marketplace while visiting a friend at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit. With the help of an assister working right in the hospital, Adriane found the best health plan for her. The assisters, Adriane said, "made me feel secure in my decision."

Adriane's monthly premium was $49 after the tax credit, and with financial help from the Metro Detroit Health Insurance Program based on her income, she doesn't have to pay a dime.

Many African-Americans like Adriane can find that same sense of security, because the Marketplace is still open for business. Here at HHS and the NAACP, we're committed to getting the word out that Open Enrollment runs through January 31. You can find in-person help right in your own community by visiting LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov. You might be surprised to find that your own church or, like Adriane, a local hospital is helping people enroll in coverage.

You also might be surprised by how affordable health plans are through the Marketplace. In fact, more than 7 in 10 returning Marketplace customers will be able to buy a plan for $75 or less a month in premiums after tax credits. And financial help is especially important since people who can afford insurance and choose to go without it risk having to pay a fee of $695 or more.

Coverage is better for everyone. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, people across the country like Adriane can rest easier knowing that they can't be dropped from their health plan because they get sick, or discriminated against if they have a pre-existing condition. And about 7.8 million African-Americans, now have access to preventive services like annual checkups, vaccinations, and certain cancer screenings at no extra cost.

Adriane found a new sense of security when she got covered, and millions of African-American families have shared her relief. Since the provisions of the Affordable Care Act have taken effect, an estimated 17.6 million Americans have obtained health coverage, including 2.6 million African-American adults. The percentage of uninsured African-Americans has nearly been cut in half. With this progress, our nation has reached the lowest levels of uninsurance in history.

But we still have work to do. Too many African-Americans don't know about the Marketplace, or mistakenly think they're not eligible for financial assistance. So once you make sure that you and your family are covered, spread the word in your community about the Marketplace. We need everyone to be an active participant in making our neighborhoods and our communities healthier. So if you or a loved one needs health coverage, visit HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov today or call 1-800-318-2596 for free, confidential help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The great Civil Rights leader and former NAACP chairman Julian Bond once said, "The humanity of all Americans is diminished when any group is denied rights granted to others."

Our humanity as a nation is stronger when all American can access the care they need. So this Open Enrollment, help us reach the many African-Americans like Adriane who need the quality, affordable coverage waiting for them at the Marketplace.

Sylvia M. Burwell is Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Roslyn M. Brock is Chairman of the NAACP.