Bianca Adams worked part-time jobs as a spa professional, sometimes juggling two or three at a time, for years. But none of them offered her insurance, which meant that the 47-year-old with diabetes often went to the emergency room for care.
“I was one of those people that had to go to the emergency when my blood sugar got too high and I needed fluids,” Adams told The Huffington Post. “There was really no one managing my health at that point.”
When her Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act began in 2014, Adams, who has been disabled with severe knee problems for 25 years, underwent three major surgeries in six months: a partial hysterectomy to remove a large tumor in June, a total right knee replacement in September and a left knee replacement in November.
“It was brutal, but everything needed to be done. I was very, very sick — and had I not done it then, I’d probably be on a walker right now,” she said.
But that wasn’t her only concern. “I felt like once Republicans got back into office, it would be repealed,” she said. “That was literally the first thing on my mind — to get everything done as soon as possible.”
Black women stand to lose the most if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. This demographic is more susceptible to diabetes, uterine fibroids, obesity, high-blood pressure, domestic abuse and sexual assault than any other. Many black women also have children who depend on them for their health care, since black women are more likely to be sole providers for their household.
Obamacare reduced coverage disparities for a number of black women, allowing them to access routine health care treatment and check-ups with a primary care physician. The preventive care clause in the ACA has been life-changing for many black women: It gives them better access to early cancer screenings. Black women are twice as likely as white women to die of cervical cancer and twice as likely to be diagnosed in the later stages of breast cancer.
Historically, the government has paid attention to black women’s health only when it’s convenient, said Joan Faber McAlister, an associate professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
“Black women’s health has been pretty much the lowest priority, almost has been completely invisible,” McAlister said. “The only time we see a lot of attention to black women’s health is when it’s being misrepresented to undermine social programs that don’t even primarily benefit black women.”