One in a series spotlighting African Americans who are playing an integral part in implementing the historic Affordable Care Act.
Meet Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, deputy director for policy and regulation at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.
Explain your role in implementing the Affordable Care Act.
I've been an integral part of the Affordable Care Act from the beginning. Before I came to the Department of Health and Human Services, I worked on the Hill for the House Ways & Means Committee, one of the committees responsible for crafting the health-care law. I now work to help implement health-care reform.
One important piece of the Affordable Care Act is the market reforms, which will be fully in effect in 2014. They ensure that individuals are no longer discriminated against because of health status, medical history, gender, etc., and work to provide consumers with the financial resources to obtain coverage. I work on implementing the market reforms and the new Health Insurance Marketplace, where people can purchase coverage.
What's your favorite feature of the Affordable Care Act as it relates to Blacks and marginalized people?
So many aspects affect African Americans. The most exciting is that uninsured Americans will now be able to get health coverage. A lot of the discussion is often around certain types of services and care -- these are key parts of improving health outcomes and eliminating health disparities. But one of the key causes of health disparities is lacking access to insurance, and African Americans are far less likely to be insured.
Lack of health insurance is linked to less optimal health outcomes. That, to me, is a transformative part of our health care starting next year. Individuals will have a variety of options, and there really will be a way for people to get insured. There are other important pieces, such as preventive services and collecting data about care. But I am the most excited about the availability of coverage for all Americans.
Are there any drugs that are used to treat HIV that will no longer be covered by Medicare?
The Essential Health Benefits portion of the Affordable Care Act applies to private health insurance plans, so it doesn't affect the Medicare program directly. Our regulations allow plans some flexibility, but they must cover at least one drug in every class, as well as the number of drugs in a benchmark plan.
The coverage is very similar to what Medicare Part D covers, but there are some differences. An individual can always get an exception. If the doctor prescribes a drug that isn't covered by the plan, there is a very rapid process to make sure people have access to all the clinically appropriate drugs. The vast majority of benchmark plans cover all the AIDS drugs.
Candace Y.A. Montague is a freelance health writer in Washington, D.C. She is the D.C. HIV/AIDS examiner for Examiner.com and a blogger for The Body. She also contributes to The Grio and East of the River.