Mayor Michael Nutter. Credit: Rikard Larma / Metro.
Mayor Michael Nutter joined the mayors of Sacramento, Memphis, and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett in a telephone press conference Friday to discuss efforts within those city's at getting members of the African-American community on health insurance through the government exchange.
"The Affordable Care Act clearly is doing something quite incredible -- it's ensuring that millions of uninsured Americans have access to health care," Mayor Nutter said. "Right here in our great city that means more than 210,000 uninsured people will be able to buy affordable healthcare plans. ... Across Pennsylvania, that's more than a million."
Nutter said that he has worked with city departments, city council members, and Enroll America to bolster the city's efforts to encourage citizens to sign up for healthcare on the government exchanges and to provide information about the new law.
"The Affordable Care Act is a very complex law and so you need accurate and readily available information," Nutter said.
Nutter also noted that healthcare is particularly important for African Americans as the city health department has found that half of Philadelphia's African Americans have hypertension or high blood pressure. Meanwhile, individuals of all races have increasing rates of conditions like diabetes and asthma, he said.
Nutter acknowledged that under Gov. Tom Corbett's plan "Healthy Pennsylvania," Medicaid funding will not be as expansive as called for under Obamacare.
"90,000 people in our city will not be able to take advantage of the ACA without expanded Medicaid," Nutter said.
When asked whether the African American community has been resistant to signing up for Obamacare, Nutter was critical of partisan opposition and media coverage as making citizens more wary of Obamacare.
"You can't deny the impact of the intensity of the vitriol in the debate around moving toward the ACA, all the politics and strategy and tactics that were utilized -- talking heads on TV, the 24/7 news cycle, the inane at times debates in Congress, the 40-plus attempts to repeal the act, the lack of expansion in some of the states and the confusing array of information that’s out there," Nutter said. "How you fight against people getting affordable health care, I’ve never understood that, but apparently some people engage in those kinds of tactics."
Nutter said that these factors make informing the general public about Obamacare even more important.
"The general public -- they have real lives and real problems. They don’t have as much time to sit around for esoteric debates around these issues," Nutter said. "We're going to use every opportunity and every partner to get this information out there."
This press conference included the perspective of Mayor AC Wharton of Memphis, Tennessee, who said that the city has one hospital with an office where patients who lack health insurance can be assisted in signing up for a government exchange.
Jarrett claimed that under the Obamacare law, 390,000 African American women will gain maternity coverage, 4.5 million elderly African Americans will have increased access to health-care services, and 10.4 million African Americans will no longer have lifetime limits on their healthcare.
Jarrett said 6 of 10 African Americans will be eligible for premium tax credits to assist in paying for insurance. She also noted that Obamacare also forbids insurers from denying a client insurance based on a "preexisting condition."
"In some cases, just being a woman was considered a preexisting condition," Jarrett said during the conference.
In terms of outreach, celebrities such as Pharell Williams are reaching out to their fans on social media to inform them about Obamacare, Jarrett said.
Open enrollment into government health-care exchanges will end March 31. At that point, the uninsured will be subject to a new tax, and enrollment in the government exchanges will not again be available until October.