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Op-ed: Young, Black, Gay, and Covered

Op-ed: Young, Black, Gay, and Covered


Forget the government shutdown. Millions more people -- typically those who are marginalized and discriminated against within the health field -- will have access to regular, reliable medical care.

As a young black gay woman, I am met with a great deal of preconceived notions associated with my communities. Many people in my communities relate to being misunderstood and prejudged. As young adults, as African-Americans, as LGBTQ Americans, we all have people thinking things about us that just aren't true.

One thing all of these communities have in common is that outsiders often view us as people who don't care about our health. Black people are overweight and don't watch what they eat. Heard that one? How about LGBTQ folks are promiscuous partiers who don't care about our health or sexual decisions because it's part of our lifestyle? And then there's the misconception that all young adults think we're young and presumably healthy, therefore invincible!

But we know the truth and can change these misconceptions. Statistics show that LGBTQ Americans have been discriminated against by the health care system for years. This means that even though LGBTQ people suffer from higher rates of chronic disease than other populations, we don't automatically seek medical attention.

As a young black woman, I know too well that many members of my communities don't have health care because we've simply lacked affordable options and don't want to face discrimination or judgment in the doctor's office.

We also know that young adults go to the ER at a higher rate than any other age group under 75. Why? We can't afford to go in for regular preventive checkups and often are hit with huge bills from these ER trips.

Now, with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, in effect as of Tuesday, we can proactively take control of our health. Obamacare will bring access to health care to my communities and help build a more diverse, culturally competent medical workforce ready to address our health concerns. The funding from Obamacare to community-based clinics -- often common health care stops for African-Americans, LGBTQ Americans, and young adults who lack health insurance -- will result an in ability to serve up to 20 million more patients.

We have to lead the way for others and get informed about the changes that Obamacare provides -- discounted health care, greater Medicaid eligibility, free preventive services, new consumer protections, and so much more. We have to educate other members of our community. But most important, for our friends and family, we need to get covered!

TAMIKA BUTLER is the California director at Young Invincibles, an organization committed to amplifying the voices of young adults, ages 18 to 34, and expanding economic opportunity for our generation. Young uninsured adults can learn about their new options and how to navigate the enrollment process by checking out the Healthy Young America campaign.

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Tamika L. Butler