The national debate over the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. "Obamacare," rages on, but whose voices are being heard?
Not those of black teenagers in the Mississippi Delta -- at least until now.
A group of teens in Shelby, Miss. has made a video sharing their thoughts about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) matters in their lives. They got help from the Mississippi Center for Justice, a public interest law firm and policy advocacy group that is working to dismantle barriers to health care access in communities across the state. The teens are active with Students Involved in Community Change, a grassroots group that encourages community participation in the local schools.
Shelby is a mostly African-American community in the Mississippi Delta. It's located in Bolivar County, where the poverty rate is 34.6 percent. That's 13 percentage points higher than Mississippi, which is the nation's poorest state and has some of the highest rates of hypertension, diabetes, asthma and HIV/AIDS.
Under the ACA, more than 350,000 Mississippians who are currently uninsured -- mostly the working poor, like truck drivers and child care workers -- would be eligible for Medicaid, which is already the leading source of health insurance coverage for the state's children. However, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has so far rejected Medicaid expansion, turning down $426 million in federal funds for next year. He argues that administrative costs would be too high. In all, 25 states have rejected Medicaid expansion, including most of those in the South.
The video opens with shots of Shelby and a voiceover by the narrator:
We know that with the ACA, young people have more opportunities to access health care. This is important, because while some of us have families with health insurance, others aren't so lucky. And if the numbers are right, most of us will be uninsured by the time we turn 19. We care about each other, and we need a healthy future. We know that the ACA can help us get there.
The teens launch into song, intercut with stories about young people's need for better health care: an uninsured 17-year-old paralyzed from the waist down by a gunshot wound, a young track star who needs care for athletic injuries, a 15-year-old whose father died, a teenager who suffers from asthma.
"I wonder, if you were me and I was you," raps one young man in a run-down laundromat, "would you believe in health care, a better welfare?"
Watch the video here: