Obamacare: Why African Americans Are More Likely to Buy Health Insurance


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The Affordable Care Act, rolls out another provision as of January 1, 2014: mandatory coverage for every American. You might have heard that anyone who doesn't buy health insurance is subject to a fine; what might surprise you is that nearly 40% of Americans are opting to pay the fine rather than have health insurance, according to a recent survey from insuranceQuotes.com.

The most likely groups to buy health insurance are Democrats, young people and African-Americans. Indeed, 78% of blacks are opting to purchase health care, compared with 61% of Hispanics and 58% of whites.

Why are African-Americans so disproportionately likely to purchase health care under Obamacare? Laura Adams, senior analyst at insuranceQuotes.com attributes this trend to a greater need for healthcare in the black community. "Surveys show that African-Americans have a disproportionate number of health problems," she says. "They're more likely to suffer both injury and illness." She also noted that the life expectancy for black Americans is lower than that of white Americans.

Not only does this point to a greater need for health care, but it also underscores another provision of the ACA: insurance companies can no longer refuse to enroll customers due to preexisting conditions. "In the past," Adams explains, "it was impossible or very expensive to get coverage for things like cancer or heart disease."

"Now that some people are no longer locked out of the system, there's a strong interest in obtaining health insurance," she added. "Now that the benefit is available, many are opting for coverage even in cases where it might be more expensive than the fine."

Adams also gave some words of caution to those opting to pay a fine rather than get health insurance. "Every American, regardless of age, is required to have health insurance," she said. This applies even to children, meaning that people with kids will be paying a fine both for themselves and for not insuring any dependents that they might have. Anyone not enrolled by March 31, 2014, will lose coverage for the entire year and have to pay a penalty.

--Written by Nicholas Pell for MainStreet

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