Historically, African-Americans have experienced shorter life-spans and have been hit harder by chronic and infectious diseases than whites and other ethnic groups in the United States. This troubling trend is significantly more challenging given the impact of the passing of two recent pieces of legislation: the “Ryan Bill” in the House of Representatives and the bill to raise the debt ceiling in both Houses of Congress. Directly targeted under the .5 trillion portion of the debt ceiling bill to be negotiated by the “Super Congress” are entitlement programs that have been and remain staples in the Black community such as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. These programs, with the exception of Medicaid, are earned programs that require workers to actively participate and contribute to the various Trust Funds as a hedge against future illness and retirement.
Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid are programs that must be sustained for current and future generations of African-Americans because life-expectancy, multiple ailments and a lack of retirement income increase the chances of sustainability for seniors. There is a well-documented history of health disparities in our community. African-Americans die at significantly higher rates than Whites overall (28%), Stroke (49%), Diabetes (109%), Heart Disease (32%) and Cancer (21%), the disease from which my mother died. As a result, the life-expectancy is 4.8 years shorter for African-Americas, specifically 5.9 years shorter for men and 4 years shorter for women.
These statistics are dismal. However, given the Ryan Bill’s proclivity to increase the eligibility age and require all Medicare beneficiaries to increase the cost that they pay out-of-pocket for their care from 25% to 68%, this can and will have an even more detrimental impact on our community. The actuarial scoring of insurance companies and the cost to buy insurance for African-Americans (if they are able to get it at all) will be extraordinary. High poverty rates, the lack of wealth through investments and the strain on family members trying to provide assistance, make it is virtually impossible to require elderly African-Americans to bear this heavy burden.