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Health Care Reform in Slow Gear for Hartford

Healthcare reform is coming to Connecticut on Oct. 1.

And with less than a month to go, Connecticut’s congressional delegation was scheduled to meet on Wenesday to help ramp up an awareness campaign in the city of Hartford and the state, hoping to convey the import of this major reform spawn by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Access Health CT, charged with the gargantuan task of setting up an online marketplace to help enroll people, have been traversing the state with informational meetings, sending out press releases to mainstream media, particular ethnic circulars and local gate keepers who traditionally disseminate information to their family and friends network. Access also attended community fairs, concerts and festivals. They are, indeed, aggressively getting the word out about Access Health CT. Last Wednesday, officials said they were ready for the Oct. 1 rollout.

But what it all means for Hartford residents, especially people of color, has yet to be told.

editorialbannerthumbCase in point: at an Aug. 6 block party in the Blue Hills neighborhood, a twenty-something white man approached a black woman sitting at a table. He mumbled something about insurance and was shooed away. When asked about the nature of the man’s spiel, she said she didn’t hear most of what he said, “just something about insurance.”

The Hartford Guardian was present and found it interesting that Access sent a white male into an all-black community to promote the Affordable Care Act. Why not hire someone from the neighborhood?

This health care program, also known as Obamacare, are for people without insurance, who cannot get insurance because of preconditions and a whole host of categories. Most likely, it is for people who are unemployed and underemployed, many of whom are black and Latino.

A recent phone conference with the ethnic press conveyed the importance of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on communities of color and the poor. Several callers wanted to know about resources for community outreach, or for doing substantive stories about the program.  That’s because implementation of Obamacare, as its sometimes called, is a $5 billion industry; and many companies will be cashing in. As usual, not many small and minority businesses have been in that loop during the early stages.

Additionally, many ethnic papers would like to go beyond referring people to a website and instead disseminate substantive information through a cultural lens. And it was evident in the recent conversation, which also illustrated the knowledge gap that will certainly have a ripple effect in communities of color, if not mitigated soon.

With less than 30 days to go, ethnic communities will have to play catch on mountains of information that have accumulated since January. But many also want to make one thing very plain. They are not interested in just being consumers of the health insurance marketplace. They want more.

On the heels of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, people of color are asking for not just civil rights but also economic justice.

How the state spends millions of dollars to implement this major healthcare reform will be a significant indicator on the question of equity and whether we will have to march on the Washington Mall again in another 50 years.

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