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2013 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference Health and Wellness Recap

(L to R) Dr. Millicent Gorham, Dr. Edward Chappelle, Jr., Dr. Michael A. LeNoir, Dr. Gary A. Puckrein, Dr. Bryant Cameron Webb and Dr. Joia Crear-Perry.
(L to R) Dr. Millicent Gorham, Dr. Edward Chappelle, Jr., Dr. Michael A. LeNoir, Dr. Gary A. Puckrein, Dr. Bryant Cameron Webb and Dr. Joia Crear-Perry.

I had the opportunity to attend the Annual Legislative Conference for The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. on Friday September 20 in Washington, D.C. I followed the health and wellness track in order to get the inside scoop on bills, policies and laws that are affecting us. The entire day was eye-opening and informative. I’ve broken down my recap into several parts. Check out the entire series.

I started off the day in Health Braintrust session “The Role of the African-American Provider in ACA Access Expansion Efforts and Beyond.” This session was moderated by Dr. Joia Crear-Perry and the panelists were Dr. Michael A. LeNoir, President of the National Medical Association; Dr. Gary A. Puckrein, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Minority Quality Forum; Dr. Millicent Gorham, Executive Director, National Black Nurses Association; Dr. Bryant Cameron Webb, Founder, Equity Rx; and Dr. Edward Chappelle, Jr., President, National Dental Association.

These African-American health care providers and thought leaders shared their perspectives on the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since it has passed and been implemented. The consensus of the panel is that the ACA will be beneficial to African-Americans, but expansion and retooling of the program needs to take place in order to see the most good for most of the people. The current structure of the ACA will likely overburden many African-American providers and force them out of practice over time.

One of the drawbacks to ACA is the lack of dental coverage. Dr. Chappelle had a compelling argument for the necessity of dental coverage. He said “the mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body.” When people have proper dental care, it cuts down on their utilization of emergency services. Under the ACA, adults and seniors lack dental benefits and this can become a quality of life issue. Without proper dental care, it can be difficult to eat and have good nutrition, as well as prove difficult to secure employment if a person has no teeth and can’t smile.

Another drawback is drug formularies. Dr. Puckrein spoke boldly against the use of formularies, as he believes it to be a discriminatory practice. He said drug formularies “disproportionately impact our community.” Dr. Webb expanded on Puckrein’s point to explain how drug formularies limit providers in what drugs they can prescribe. It poses a challenge to delivering high quality and efficient care.

Dr. Gorham highlighted one of the strong points of the ACA and that is the funds that have been allocated to growing the roles of physician extenders and nursing education. This is particularly advantageous to African-American nurses. Most of our nurses are prepared at the LPN and associate degree level. However, funding has been made available in every state through a nursing action coalition to advance the education of nurses in order to help meet the demands for highly skilled nursing care.

Want to know what action you can take?

You can write, email or call your congressman and ask them to sponsor and/or support legislature to enhance the ACA by 1) adding dental coverage and 2) relax closed drug formularies and allow providers more flexibility to prescribe medication they deem appropriate.

Find your congressman here.

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