Today, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), their answer to Obamacare. Now, the Republican-controlled Senate will decide the fate of tens of millions of Americans. I’ve seen countless articles detailing the impact of the AHCA—especially, it seems, on Trump voters.
The impact the AHCA would have on black people, however, has largely been missing from the conversation—which is disturbing, given how many of us will be affected by this legislation. I became a data scientist to quantify the inequities in my community and push for solutions to address them. Here are some facts and statistics showing the harm this bill threatens to cause, and what this tells us about institutional racism in America:
AHCA cuts benefits to middle- and especially to low-income people. Black people, who tend to make less, will be disproportionately harmed.
While AHCA cuts disproportionately harm black people, its greatest beneficiaries are the 400 wealthiest. Only 2 of these 400 are black: 0.5%
In fact, the 400 wealthiest U.S. households who benefit most from this bill have more wealth than all black (or Latino) households combined.
AHCA also cuts $880 billion dollars from Medicaid, which black people disproportionately rely on for healthcare.
AHCA allows (GOP) states to opt out of requirements to cover essential health benefits & pre-existing conditions. Who lives in these states? GOP states will be more likely to opt out of these protections. 56% of the black population lives in a state completely controlled by the GOP. Not to mention AHCA will end the prospect of Medicaid expansion in states that have some of the highest black populations.
AHCA also cuts support for students with disabilities. These students are disproportionately black.
Now, let’s talk about who in America has the power to make decisions that will disproportionately harm black communities.
Nearly 90% of the House GOP are white men. Of 238 members of House GOP, only three are black: 1%. And yet they have the power to pass this bill.
The AHCA has made it to the Senate. Tim Scott is the only black GOP Senator. In other words, the GOP can pass this bill regardless of black objections. Institutional racism is the way the system gives white (men) the power to unilaterally decide the healthcare of black communities. “Vote! Run for office!” they’ll say. And, yes, it’s important. But let’s not ignore that the system limits black political power in many ways.
There’s the way districts are gerrymandered to limit the overall influence of black voters.
There’s the way voters are less likely to support darker-skinned candidates.
There’s the way voter ID laws and felon disenfranchisement (often intentionally) reduce black and brown turnout.
There’s the way the Senate’s structure gives disproportionate influence to people living in rural states, who are disproportionately white.
There’s the way the electoral college gives white voters disproportionate influence in presidential elections.
And then there’s the way politicians, once elected, prioritize the preferences of white constituents.
Structural racism is deeply embedded in the U.S. political system, on so many levels. It will take people from every corner of the country standing up to oppose this bill to prevent it from becoming law. Call your senator, show up to town halls, be heard. We need to have the courage to confront the systems and structures that have allowed this disastrous bill to get this far.