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Affordable Care Act Extension of MLK’s Dream, HHS Secretary Says

WASHINGTON (Jan. 18) – The Obama Administration’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, is an extension of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s dream to eliminate economic, social and health disparities for African Americans and the rest of the nation, the nation’s highest ranking health official said Tuesday at Howard University. To see a video of Sebelius’ speech, click here

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who leads the principal agency charged with keeping Americans healthy, said the new law and other legislation pushed through by President Barack Obama has particularly helped African Americans, who rank near the bottom of nearly every health care indicator.
“It’s going to be easier to get health insurance,” Sebelius said.  “It’s going to be easier for people to get that check up.  We‘re going to be able to hold insurance companies accountable, and that’s going to make a big difference for African Americans.”
Sebelius delivered the keynote address at the School of Divinity Spring Semester Convocation in the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel.  Her speech was one of the highlights of the University’s annual weeklong celebration of King’s legacy, philosophy and teachings.   

Tackling health care disparities are just as important as knocking down the walls of discrimination and economic barriers, Sebelius said.

“Health disparities carry a big cost for our communities and our nation,” Sebelius said. “It’s hard to concentrate on school when you’re sick.  When it’s not safe for children to play or there are no facilities for them to play on, it’s hard to get exercise.  When you have to walk two miles to get fresh produce but a bag of chips is right around the corner at the local store, it’s hard to eat healthy.”
Sebelius noted that in the 40 years since King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., there has been significant progress for the nation and African Americans.

“We have watched African Americans rise to the highest levels in business and academia, even into the White House,” she said.  “Yet we still have a long way to go.  We’re not going to achieve Dr. King’s dream overnight, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

One of the new health initiatives for the Obama Administration is a “national roadmap, a national strategy to deal with HIV,” she said.

In order for the new effort to be effective, it will need the help of Howard University and other institutions like it, she said.
“People know you,” she said.  “They trust you.  Your participation and leadership can make a huge difference.”

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