Today, Americans face unprecedented times. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, our country has entered an economic recession and hundreds of thousands are protesting against police brutality and racial injustice. But there is another epidemic in this country
addressed, and it needs to be addressed now.
CNN's Don Lemon said it best, "There are two deadly viruses that kill Americans: COVID-19 and racism."
Because of the systematic racism that is ingrained in our nation, racial differences in American health care have resulted in disease, injury and death in minority communities across the country. Black Americans suffer most from the American health system. Now we see COVID-19 shed much-needed light on the harsh reality that has plagued an entire race for centuries.
In my home state of North Carolina, Black Americans make up 30 percent of COVID-19 cases and 34 percent of COVID-19 deaths, even though they make up only 22 percent of the population. Really think about this math. How does it make sense?
That means 162 black North Carolinians will die from COVID-19, which is 70 more than would be expected based on the demographic makeup of the state. That is, 70 more Americans who will die just because of the color of their skin.
Unfortunately, these differences are nothing new in healthcare. Black Americans have long suffered from a severe lack of access to quality, affordable care, predisposing them to increased rates of underlying illness and disease. Due to the lack of access, black Americans are often forced to travel very far for care. This usually means that if they are insured they have to go to facilities outside the network and are often hit by exorbitant surprise medical bills.
Surprising medical bills are unexpected costs associated with off-network care or emergency care for a patient. These bills can range from a prescription drug worth $ 50 to an emergency shipment of $ 30,000. Unsurprisingly, black Americans experience a higher rate of surprise medical bills at a higher cost than white Americans.
Congress is ahead of the game when it comes to medical billing reform in this country, but they are falling far short of what needs to be done. There are several bills in the House and Senate claiming to correct this injustice, but all continue to leave the cost to patients or providers without holding insurance companies accountable.
As Congress tries to find out, we see the government miss the mark as well. In a Twitter thread on June 22, CMS administrator Seema Verma may have misdiagnosed the very root of the problem – the insurers. Because of the obvious and intrinsic greed, these companies starve for patients and place a financial burden on their shoulders.
In a recent hearing in Congress, Dr. Rhea Boyd, a practicing physician and health scientist: "It's really important to make sure that insurance isn't an obstacle to health care, especially for African Americans …"
Insurance companies make billions of dollars each year using cunning tactics like thin networks to lure consumers in and then hit them with a surprising medical bill when they leave the network. It is time to put an end to insurance companies that make billions of hardworking Americans.
It is clear that Senator Lamar Alexander and Representatives Frank Pallone and Greg Walden, three of the members campaigning for the elimination of surprise medical billing, are in Big's pockets
Insurance. The bills they sponsor don't even bring insurance companies to the negotiating table, much less blame them.
We're in the middle of 2020 and don't have any legislative proposals yet to get to the bottom of the surprising medical billing problem. We need to get rid of thin networks, improve access to care and cover emergency services. It's time for insurance companies to pay so we can save black lives. Black lives count.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association based in Washington, DC. He regularly comments on public policy issues that affect Black America's quality of life. Dr. Chavis was the first to coined the term "environmental racism".