“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.”Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

African American health leaders joined Covered California to reflect on the life and legacy of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and with the final deadline in the current open enrollment period coming up, to urge Black Californians to sign up for comprehensive coverage through Covered California or Medi-Cal.

Doctors David Carlisle and Kim Rhoads, along with Rhonda Smith of the California Black Health Network, say Dr. King’s words on the injustice in healthcare are still profound today. Health inequities abound for Black Californians.

A recent report from the California Health Care Foundation highlighted that Black Californians have the shortest life expectancy – as well as the highest death rates among all racial and ethnic groups from breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer. According to the report, Black Californians also experienced the highest rates of infant mortality, maternal mortality, first-birth cesareans, preterm births, and low-birthweight births.

Carlisle, Rhoads, and Smith joined Covered California to encourage Black Californians to get COVID-10 vaccinations and boosters and to sign up for affordable, quality health insurance coverage before open enrollment closes at the end of the month. The health leaders stressed that having access to quality health care is a means to help ensure health equity for Blacks Californians.

“Achieving health equity for African Americans is an important goal now more than ever,” said Dr. Carlisle, CEO and president of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.  “It is essential that all populations have access to healthcare and the tools needed to face down this historic public health crisis. The only way to get through this is together. Widely available and affordable health coverage coupled with quality health care can help level the field for everyone, putting California in the best position to get on top of COVID-19 and be prepared for future challenges.”

The latest state data shows that COVID-19 vaccination rates among African Americans are currently at 52 percent. Increasing COVID-19 vaccination and booster rates and gaining access to quality health care is key to battling health care inequities, says Dr. Rhoads, associate professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and the Director of the Office of Community Engagement at UC San Francisco.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled the curtain back on the longstanding inequities in the health and health care for Black and African American people nationwide,” said Dr. Rhoads. “These disparities whether in high blood pressure, cancer, or COVID-19, are often related to challenges in finding and receiving high-quality care. Getting and having insurance coverage is a powerful intervention that will help us address the negative effects of unequal access to prevention and treatment for Black and African American people in California.”

Right now, an estimated 1.1 million Californians don’t have health insurance and are eligible for more financial health than ever before through Covered California, or they qualify for low-cost or no-cost coverage through Medi-Cal. Most Californians can now qualify to get brand-name health plans with companies like Anthem, Blue Shield, Kaiser, and Health Net for less than $10 monthly and many for $0 per month.

Working tirelessly on the ground to enroll Black Californians and other people of color in affordable and quality health care is the mission of the California Black Health Network (CBHN), says Executive Director Rhonda Smith. As a statewide Navigator for Covered California, CBHN has enrolled thousands of Black Californians into health plans through the years.

“We are proud to partner with Covered California to ensure that healthcare coverage is available, affordable, and accessible to all,” Smith said. “We believe that healthcare is a right and not a privilege, and thanks to Covered California, we can provide a pathway to get more people insured and enroll them in the right plan that works for them.”

Covered California’s current open-enrollment period runs through January 31. Enrollment in Medi-Cal is open year-round. Consumers interested in learning more about their health coverage options can: