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Statement by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on African American History Month


Location: Washington, DC

Today, we celebrate the beginning of African American History Month, a time for all Americans to recognize the countless contributions African Americans have made to our nation, including major advances in scientific research and public health.

During African American History Month, we draw inspiration from the courage of trailblazers like Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African-American woman in our nation's history to receive a M.D. degree. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, Crumpler overcame the deeply entrenched discrimination of her time and in 1864 graduated from New England Medical College.

We also honor the legacy of innovators like Dr. George Washington Carver, who earned global recognition in the early 20th century for his groundbreaking research in the fields of agriculture and nutrition. A brilliant scientist, Dr. Carver used his skills to help the most vulnerable in society, educating poor farmers on ways to cultivate alternative crops that would yield more abundant and nutritious harvests.

This year, we will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a critical turning point in the fight against racial segregation and discrimination. As we reflect on how far we have come, we also recognize that there is much work to do.

This administration has made reducing the long standing disparities in health care in the African American community a top priority. African Americans suffer from higher rates of a range of illnesses as compared to the general population, yet are 55 percent more likely to be uninsured than white Americans.

A critical step toward improving the health of communities of color is expanding access to affordable health coverage, and that's what the Affordable Care Act does. Through the Health Insurance Marketplace, 6.8 million uninsured African Americans have new options for affordable health coverage that covers a range of benefits, including important preventive services with no out-of-pocket costs.

According to a recent HHS study, six out of 10 uninsured African Americans are currently eligible for Medicaid, the Children's Health Program (CHIP) or financial assistance to purchase private coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. But, if all states took advantage of new opportunities to expand Medicaid coverage under the law, 95 percent of uninsured African Americans would be eligible for Medicaid, CHIP or financial assistance to buy Marketplace coverage.

As outlined in the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, we are committed to continuously assessing the impact of all policies and programs on racial and ethnic health disparities.

Today, we renew our pledge to ensure that every child in this country has the chance to live a healthy life and reach their full potential. Please join us in our efforts to improve the lives of millions of Americans by expanding access to health care and reducing health disparities.

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