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Friday, June 18, 2021

Communities of Color and Other Buyers, Beware of Bold Promises from Health Insurers

By Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought issues of healthcare equity to the forefront of discussions of racial justice. Even when controlling for factors like age and income, communities of color have been much more severely impacted than white Americans.

A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that “older Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native adults were nearly twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as older White adults,” and “cases among Black and Hispanic Medicare beneficiaries were 1.6 times higher than the rate observed among White beneficiaries.

”Access to healthcare and health insurance is a vital issue for African Americans. And it’s important to be on the lookout for healthcare companies that make big promises but fail to deliver. In this context, let’s take a look at Oscar Health, an insurance company that tries to appeal to consumers by positioning itself as a tech company. But its track record is questionable at best.

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The company has been investigated and fined by the NY State Department of Financial Services. During its expansion in New York, Oscar cut the number of doctors in its network by more than half.

The company also has connections to former Trump Administration officials. It was founded by Jared Kushner’s brother Josh, and its parent company, Thrive Capital, was partly owned by Kushner until he took a job at the White House. And the company is run by serial Wall Street investors who seem primarily interested in flipping companies for a profit.

Even more concerning, Oscar has been expanding into the Medicare Advantage program, where they can leverage taxpayer money to provide health coverage to our seniors. That means one of our most vulnerable communities could be opting into a company that has questions hanging over it.

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African Americans clearly need better health insurance. But we can’t get lured in by companies that are more interested in taking money than providing real healthcare benefits.

So, before you make a decision about health insurance, please get more than one opinion or option.  There are healthcare insurance companies that are considerably more equitable and beneficial. Healthcare for all is both a fundamental civil and human right.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and Executive Producer and Host of The Chavis Chronicles (TCC) broadcast weekly on PBS TV stations throughout the United States.

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