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Final Push to Get Blacks Signed Up for Health Insurance

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – With less than two weeks left to sign up for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, grassroots supporters of the mandatory law and federal health officials are rushing to enroll Blacks, other people of color and young people in order to meet the Obama administration’s goal of reaching 7 million people by the end of this month.

The administration has enlisted past and present NBA superstars Lebron James, Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning for television ads urging people to get enrolled by March 31 that will air on ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA TV. James will be featured in a television ad running during the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Online videos featuring First Lady Michelle Obama and mothers of celebrities including Jonah Hill, Adam Levine, Alicia Keys, and Jennifer Lopez that targeted mothers and women also encourage people to get covered.

Last week, President Obama traded comedic jabs with Zach Galifianakis on a mock talk show called “Between Two Ferns.” Obama appeared on the show with the star of the “The Hangover” movie franchise in an effort to pitch HealthCare.Gov to a younger, hipper audience most likely to watch the show.

However, just as he has done throughout his time in the White House, President Obama has refused to grant an interview to the National Newspaper Publishers Association New Service, which serves a federation of approximately 200 newspapers with a readership of 19 million.

According to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 56 percent of people who don’t have health insurance have an unfavorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act.

Fifty-seven percent of Whites have an unfavorable opinion of the ACA and 29 percent view the law favorably.

In sharp contrast, 53 percent of Blacks like the new health care law that mandates health insurance coverage for all, more than twice the 24 percent of Blacks don’t like the law.

In the upcoming weeks, Enroll America, a non-partisan, non-profit national group that informs consumers about health insurance options and helps people sign up for plans, will partner with a number of organizations in the Black community to increase awareness about the ACA and get people enrolled in health care plans.

Enroll America will support events aimed at young Blacks at community colleges and historically Black colleges and universities. The group has also partnered with youth ministers across the nation to promote health insurance coverage and programming designed to get young Blacks enrolled. Enroll America has also designed outreach and health insurance education programs for Black Muslims.

At a conference in Washington, D.C. last week, Enroll America announced a partnership with the National Medical Association, a group of more than 37,000 Black doctors, to promote new, affordable health insurance coverage and to provide information on healthy living in the Black community. Enroll America and the NMA will expand outreach efforts already in place, working with Black religious denominations and “will focus on the 11 states that have large numbers of African Americans and others who are uninsured,” according to a press release. The states include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.

Dr. Michael LeNoir, president of the National Medical Association, said that the partnership with Enroll America’s faith-based initiative just extends the relationship Black doctors have had with churches in the Black community for more than 100 years.

“The churches in the African American community play a pivotal role in informing people about the Affordable Care Act and encouraging them to enroll for health coverage,” said LeNoir in a press release about the partnership with Enroll America’s faith-based initiative. “Our partnership with the faith community will provide our physicians with the opportunity to help the uninsured understand the long–term ramifications of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.”

The ACA made it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to anyone because of a pre-existing condition, a provision that is disproportionately beneficial to Blacks who suffer higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS and certain cancers than their White counterparts.

Black males lead all groups in cancer-related deaths and Black females die from cancer at great rates than other women.

More than 20 percent of Blacks under the age of 65 don’t have health insurance. According to a recent poll by Enroll America nearly 70 percent of uninsured Blacks didn’t know that financial assistance is available to help pay for health insurance.

According to a December 2013 report by the Department of Health and Human Services, six in 10 uninsured African Americans may qualify either for tax credits to purchase coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace or for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If all states expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA, that figure would jump to 95 percent.

The problem is that most eligible, uninsured Blacks live in southern states that refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the ACA.

According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 80 percent of people that fall in the coverage gap, live in the South And Southern states account for nearly half of all states that failed to expand Medicaid coverage. This move by state lawmakers, most of them Republican, will have a disproportionate effect on the health outcomes of millions of Blacks.

Ten percent of all eligible, uninsured Blacks live in Florida. Texas and Georgia each account for another 9 percent of uninsured Blacks that would qualify for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, if those states chose to expand the program.

According to the report by the Health Department, “The greater Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Detroit metropolitan areas are home to one-fifth (21 percent) of eligible uninsured African Americans.”

Those who choose not to sign up for a health insurance plan by March 31 will incur a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of their yearly household income, whichever is higher. A family of four could pay up to $285 in penalties if no one in the household is covered. If a person doesn’t ’t have health insurance in 2015, the penalty jumps to $325 per person or 2 percent of their yearly income.

Some people may be exempt from paying the fine, including those who go without insurance for less than three months of the year, people who don’t file a tax return because their income is too low or if the lowest-price coverage is more than 8 percent of a family’s household.

Others will qualify for a “hardship” exemption include homeless people, those who faced an eviction or filed for bankruptcy in the last six months and, in some cases, or victims of domestic violence. A complete list of exemptions and how to file for one is available at the HealthCare.gov. website. Questions can also be answered by calling 1-800-318-2596.

Etoy Ridgnal, director of African American Engagement and Faith Based Initiatives for Enroll America, said, “Folks should take the time to act now, go to a local community health center, local hospitals, local Urban League or the local NAACP office. Help is everywhere and it’s easily accessible, so there’s no reason that folks should not take this opportunity to get enrolled.”

New Studies Shatter Myths about Black Cohabitation and Marriage

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By Jazelle Hunt
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Decades of research and the warnings of Black mothers everywhere are being challenged by an emerging body of research that finds no link between cohabitation and chance of divorce. Further, researchers are asserting that cohabitation actually boosts the stability of resulting marriages for women who typically have lower marital rates – such as Black women.

As one study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Families asserts, “…the positive association between cohabitation with commitment, and marital stability existed only among select subgroups of women who faced greater risks of dissolution (i.e., women who were Black, had a premarital birth, had less than a college degree, were raised in single or stepparent families, or had more than the median number of sex partners).”

According to Census data, married couples lead 28.5 percent of African American households. Many Black couples choose to share their lives before they are willing or able to make it official. This is particularly true for low-income couples that find cohabitation economically convenient, or as a solution to unexpected economic problems.

Between 2006 and 2010, the National Center for Health Statistics surveyed more than 12,000 women on their cohabitation experiences. In the survey, Black women had 51 percent chance of cohabiting by age 25. Between 1995 and 2010, the study reported a 39 percent increase in cohabitation as a first union for Black women.

By three years of cohabiting, 31 percent of Black women had transitioned to marriage, while another 41 percent continued living with their partner.

As recently as five years ago, researchers would have guessed that most of these marriages would eventually fail. But a series of white papers, released this month by the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF), finds that length of the relationship, age at cohabitation, and circumstances leading to cohabitation are better predictors of future marital misfire than cohabitation itself.

In fact, age can be such a strong predictor of marital success that it can override other relationship risks.

For example, one CCF researcher, Evelyn Lehrer, finds that women who delay marriage—past 23 years old, but ideally into the 30s and 40s—tend to enter unconventional, but stable marriages. In her work, unconventional marriages included couples with differing races (as well as different religions, education or economic levels, or previously-married men).

African Americans in general, but African American women in particular, have low rates of intermarriage. The Pew Research Center reports that in 2010, only 17 percent of all African American newlyweds had married out—9 percent of Black women wed a non-Black spouse, compared to 24 percent of Black men.

“These [unconventional, later-in-life] marriages have two advantages,” Lehrer continues. “One is that each person has greater economic resources by that time…and also, they are more mature at later ages. We found a lot of solid unions in these marriages. They are making better choices [for partners].”

Cohabitation has the best effect on marriage stability for women who are engaged first, then cohabit; according to the Journal study, their risk of separation or divorce is even lower than that of women who don’t cohabit.

Furthermore, the CCF’s data asserts that the link between pre-marital cohabitation and divorce rates has been overblown, if it ever existed at all.

“Studies have consistently overstated the risk of premarital cohabitation, and continue to do so even for marriages formed since the mid-1990s. This is because they have been comparing couples by their age at marriage rather than by their age when they moved in together,” says Arielle Kuperberg, another researcher on the CCF project. “My study finds that when couples are compared by the age at which they move in together and start taking on the roles associated with marriage, there is no difference in divorce rates between couples that lived together before marriage and those that didn’t.”

Stephanie Coontz, historian and co-chair and director of Research and Public Education for the CCF, points to Australia for insight into this current cultural shift. Fifty years of research there also painted a picture of cohabitation as the harbinger of separation and divorce—up to the late 1980s, when the trend reversed so much that cohabitation actually bolstered marital stability.

“Divorce rates were much lower than they are today, partly because marriages in that era were based on predefined, rigid gender roles. Both parties knew exactly what was expected of them. It was much easier to figure out how to make a marriage work than it is today, when there is so much more to negotiate,” Coontz says in the series’ conclusion statement. “Now that prior cohabitation is the normative route to marriage, and especially now that marriage requires more negotiation skills and deeper friendship than the past, the United States may well follow the same pattern that researchers found in Australia. Who knows what other old rules may be shattered in the next few years?”

Bias a Factor in Suspending Black Students

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A new collection of research shows that despite the myths surrounding Black student behavior, poverty and severity of the offense have very little to do with the rate Black students are suspended from school.

Rather, the studies point a finger in another direction: the implicit bias perpetrated by school officials.

The Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative, a group of researchers, educators, advocates, and policy analysts funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Open Society Foundations, compiled the research on school discipline.

According to the Collaborative, more than 3 million students from kindergarten to 12th grade were suspended during the 2009-2010 school year, twice the rate of suspensions since the 1970s. Black students are nearly 3.5 times as likely to be suspended than their White peers.

In the briefing paper titled, “Are Black Kids Worse? Myths and Facts about Racial Differences in Behavior,” researchers from the Equity Project at Indiana University in Bloomington found that “there is simply no good evidence that racial differences in discipline are due to differences in rates or types of misbehavior by students of different races.”

Research also showed that despite popular myths the relationship between poverty and disruptive school behavior has been overstated.

When researchers looked at middle school referrals, White students were more likely to get sent to office over “observable offenses” such as smoking and vandalism and Black students were disciplined more frequently for subjective reasons including disrespectful behavior, loud noise and defiance.

“In other words, regardless of a school’s official disciplinary policy, there are a variety of factors involved in determining a student’s punishment, not the least of which is the mood, ideology, philosophy, values, and biases of the adults making that decision,” stated the briefing paper on implicit bias. “The more subjective the category of offense – i.e., insubordination, disobedience, disruption, defiance – the greater the risk that bias (either explicit or unconscious) will seep into the process.”

Researchers often use the Implicit Association Test to measure implicit bias.

“Researchers have found that 80% of tested Whites and 40% of tested Blacks show a pro-White bias,” stated the briefing paper. “They consistently implicitly associate Blacks with negative attitudes such as bad and unpleasant, and with negative stereotypes such as aggressive and lazy.”

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin developed a “toolkit” of strategies to combat implicit bias including stereotype replacement, counter-stereotypic imagining that involves thinking about a famous or familiar person that debunks the stereotype, learning about a person’s background and developing an individualized response, tastes, hobbies, and family, and perspective-taking.

“All children deserve access to a quality education, but too often, children of color are pushed out of the classroom – not because they’re behaving any worse than other students, but because of harsh and often discriminatory school disciplinary policies,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project and member of the research collaborative. “While the notion of a post-racial society is aspirational in theory, racial discrimination in school discipline is a major problem.”

The Collaborative also recommended that schools utilize “a systematic protocol” such as the Virginia Threat Assessment Guidelines instead of zero tolerance policies that quickly usher’s students down the school-to-prison pipeline.

The Collaborative researchers reported that, “Use of the Virginia Threat Assessment Guidelines across schools in Virginia was associated with a 19% reduction in the number of long-term suspensions and an 8% reduction in the number of short-term suspensions, greater than schools not using the Guidelines.”

The Virginia Threat Assessment Guidelines entail communicating with the students involved, distinguishing between real and fleeting threats, and intervening before any threats escalate into violence.

The Collaborative briefing paper on new research stated: “Use of the Guidelines was associated with reductions in suspensions for all racial groups included in the study, as well as a reduction in dis-proportionality between Black males and White even after controlling for school size and poverty.”

In schools that didn’t follow the Virginia Threat Assessment Guidelines, there was a six point gap between Black male and White male student long-term suspension rates, compared to a three point gap in schools that followed the guidelines.

The Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative recommended a range of interventions including building supportive relationships with students, providing high-quality academic opportunities, “culturally relevant and responsive teaching,” and creating “bias-free” learning environments.

“Research shows the best way to create a positive school climate is to foster trusting, supportive relationships between students and adults in the school,” Browne Dianis said. “And when misbehavior does occur, it should be addressed through constructive and equitable ‘restorative justice’ policies that give students an opportunity to learn from, and make amends for, mistakes. We should focus on problem-solving instead of just handing out penalties.”

Browne Dianis explained, “Although it is difficult and uncomfortable to talk directly about race and other differences, addressing inequalities in education requires a willingness to directly address these issues.”

Parents of Slain Black Teenagers in Chicago and Jacksonville, Fla. to be Honored by Black Press in D.C.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – (NNPA) Cleopatra and Nathaniel A. Pendleton, Sr., parents of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendelton, who was fatally shot in the back while standing in a park after taking her final examination at King College Prep High School in Chicago on Jan. 29, 2013, and Ron Davis and Lucy McBath, parents of Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old who was shot to death November 23, 2012 in Jacksonville, Fla. by Michael Dunn on a convenience store parking lot after an argument over loud music being played by Davis and three teenage companions riding in a Dodge Durango sports utility vehicle, will be honored as part of Black Press Week as “Newsmakers of the Year.”

Dunn, who is White, fired 10 shots into the SUV carrying the four Black teenagers even after it was speeding away. Three of the shots struck Davis and the other seven shots missed his friends. The jury found Dunn guilty of three counts of attempted murder, but deadlocked on a second-degree murder charge in connection with Davis’ death. Bullets fired by Dunn pierced Davis’ liver, a lung and his aorta.

Dunn testified that he thought he saw a gun sticking out of the Dodge Durango, but no weapon was found or seen by any witnesses at the scene. Dunn never reported the shooting to police and was arrested after witnesses recorded his tag number and gave it to police.

In Chicago, Young Pendleton was killed one week after participating in the second inauguration events of President Barack Obama. First Lady Michelle Obama, whose home was just a mile away from the shooting, attended Hadiya’s funeral. The president mentioned Hadiya’s death in his 2013 State of the Union address as her parents sat as honored guests in the first lady’s box. The two suspects arrested in connection with Hadiya’s death told police that she was standing in a group that was mistaken for members of a rival gang.

“We know there’s nothing anyone can do to bring back Hadiya Pendleton or Jordan Davis, but we wanted their parents to know that the nation not only mourns their loss, but rededicates itself to reducing senseless gun violence that is all too common in our communities,” said Mary G. Denson, publisher of The Windy City Word in Chicago and chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation, the sponsor of Black Press Week.

Cloves C. Campbell, Jr., publisher of the Arizona Informant and chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a federation of approximately 200 newspapers, said: “The deaths of Hadiya and Jordan were stark reminders that all of us must redouble our efforts to rid our communities of violence. The loss of any life is a tragedy and the loss of teenagers with their future ahead of them is particularly appalling and totally unacceptable.”

The parents of the slain teens will be presented with NNPA Foundation’s “Newsmaker of the Year Award” at dinner on Thursday, March 20. At that same event, former North Carolina Congressman Melvin L. Watt, the first director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, will be presented the Torch Award for Political Achievement. Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., leader of the Wilmington Ten and president and CEO of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, will be presented the Torch Award for Religious Achievement.

Earlier, Thursday Charles W. Tisdale, the late publisher of the Jackson Advocate, the oldest Black-owned newspaper in Mississippi, and the late M. Paul Redd, publisher of the Westchester County (N.Y.) Press, will be inducted into the Distinguished Black Publishers Enshrinement Ceremony at Howard University. Tisdale, died in 2007 at the age of 80.

“Charles Tisdale purchased an innocuous, nearly defunct weekly newspaper in 1978, transformed it into a strident voice for African Americans and poor whites in Mississippi, then endured the wrath of those who wanted to silence the paper – and him,” the Los Angeles Times observed in an obituary. “The office of the Jackson Advocate was attacked – firebombed, riddled with bullets, burglarized, ransacked – at least 20 times over the years. Tisdale often received death threats.”

Redd, who purchased his newspaper in 1986, died Jan. 9, 2009 of a heart attack at age of 80. He wrote a column called “M. Paul Tells All” for more than 40 years. He was a major figure in Democratic politics in New York, serving as Rye City Democratic County Committeeman for 46 years. He was also vice chairman of the Westchester County Democratic Committee. Whether through his newspaper or his political activities, he was always urging African Americans to become more active in politics as a means of improving the Black community.

The NNPA will visit the office of the National Republican Committee on Wednesday to hear about their outreach efforts and visit the White House on Friday for a briefing on President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” Black male initiative.

On the morning of Friday, March 21, a breakfast panel on confronting HIV/AIDS titled, “Black Press and the Black Pulpit,” will be moderated by Rev. Walter Silva Thompson Jr., Pastor, Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, Jamaica, N.Y. Panelists will included Rev. Dr. Kendrick E. Curry, Senior Pastor, Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, Washington, D.C. ; Rev. Dr. Lewis Brogdon, Director, Black Church Studies Program, Louisville Seminary; Rev. Yvonne Cooper, Associate Minister, Allen Chapel AME Church, Washington, D.C. and Pastor Frances “Toni” Draper, Freedom Temple AME Zion Church, Baltimore, Md.

Black Press Week activities will conclude with a luncheon Friday, March 21, at the National Press Club featuring a panel discussion on Black economic empowerment. Moderated by NNPA News Service Editor-in-Chief George E. Curry, the panel will consist of Maggie Anderson, founder of The Empowerment Experiment and author, Our Black Year, a book that catalogues the Anderson family spending a year buying only products and services produced by African Americans; Dr. William Spriggs, Chair of the Department of Economics and Howard University and former Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Obama administration, and Dr. Valerie Ralston Wilson, newly-appointed Director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

Campaign Launched to Get More Blacks in Clinical Trials

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Special to the NNPA from The Florida Courier

For Averi Anderson, seeing more African-Americans participate in clinical trials is personal. The 60-year-old breast cancer survivor said if it had not been for a clinical trial, she might not be alive today.

Anderson was one of the speakers at a Wednesday press conference in Washington, D.C. announcing a new initiative aimed to get more Blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans involved in clinical trials.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the National Minority Quality Forum have collaborated to launch the ‘I’m In’ campaign designed to encourage greater diversity of patients who volunteer to participate in clinical trials.

PhRMA represents the country’s leading biopharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, while the D.C.-based Forum is a not-for-profit independent research and education organization.

Aggressive cancer
Anderson, a former health care worker, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. At the time, she was a volunteer with the Buffalo/Niagara Witness Project, an initiative of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York that educates participants on early cancer detection through stories told by breast and cervical cancer survivors in churches and community setting.

“I didn’t just have any breast cancer. I had Stage 3 triple negative breast cancer, a very aggressive form of breast cancer in African-American women,” Anderson shared.

Shortly after her diagnosis, Anderson’s oncologist recommended she be enrolled in a federally funded clinical trial.

“I understand the misconceptions and also the Tuskegee experiment where people have a lot of mistrust of medical research. Even in my family, I heard my grandparents talk about those incidents, but I feel if it were not for other 55 year-old African-American women who participated in a clinical trial, I might not be standing here talking to you today.’’

“I thank God that today’s cures were yesterday’s clinical trials and today’s clinical studies are tomorrow’s cures,’’ she remarked.

Legacy of mistrust
Historically, Blacks’ mistrust of clinical research dates back to the use of Black cadavers for experimentation and the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis study, in which White doctors conducted experiments on Black men in Alabama to see how syphilis spreads.

The patients weren’t told they had syphilis and weren’t treated for it.

Minorities underrepresented
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), African-Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, but only 5 percent of clinical trial participants. Hispanics make up 16 percent of the population, but only 1 percent of clinical trial participants.

In a statement released prior to the conference, John Castellani, president and CEO of PhRMA, commented, “PhRMA and our member companies are committed to raising awareness and increasing participation in clinical trials, particularly among historically underrepresented populations. Through this collaboration of health care leaders, we are taking a major step forward to help reduce health disparities through greater inclusiveness in clinical research.”

Accelerating inclusion
At the conference on Wednesday, experts noted how developing new medicines is a lengthy and complex process that relies heavily on volunteer participation to evaluate potential therapies for safety and effectiveness in clinical studies.

“According to the FDA, increased diversity in clinical trials could help researchers find better ways to fight diseases that disproportionately impact certain populations, and may be important for the safe and effective use of new therapies,” Dr. Gary Puckrein, president and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum, said in a statement.

“Through the I’m In campaign, new online resources such as the Clinical Trial Engagement Network will be introduced to empower individuals to learn more about clinical trials and the benefits of participating in clinical research,” he added.

Online access
I’m In will support the buildup of the National Minority Quality Forum’s Clinical Trial Engagement Network, which will help accelerate the inclusion of underrepresented populations in clinical trials.

Authorized users will be able to quickly identify potential clinical trial participants by using zip-code level mapping of disease clusters and simultaneously identifying and connecting points of care and community resources that can assist with site selection and patient recruitment.

Others participating in Wednesday’s conference included Dr. Carlos J. Cardenas of Doctors Hospital in McAllen, Texas and Dr. Ho Tran of the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians. Both expressed the importance of minorities in the trials.

‘For ourselves’
Anderson, who celebrated five years as a breast cancer survivor on Feb. 22, reiterated the importance of African-Americans being involved in clinical trials. She shared the joy of being able to see her grandchildren graduate from high school and to see them possibly get married.

“We have to do this for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and our community,’’ she added.

For more information about clinical trials and the I’m In campaign, visit www.JoinImIn.org.

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