Discrimination in its various forms has contributed to the exclusion of blacks and other people of color from the field of medicine both as health care providers and as patients in the United States. Dr. Robinson's story is but one example. Racism has significantly harmed the health care of black people in the U.S. Generally speaking, those with the poorest health and the greatest need have had the poorest access to medical care, as well as lower quality health care than their white counterparts. To understand this, we must consider the historical context of blacks in America and in America's health care system. Whether as enslaved persons or free, blacks have had little to no access to medical care in the United States. The call for universal healthcare sounded over a century ago, but as political forces united against it, including powerful medical societies, the push to provide health care access to America's citizens failed. Blacks rallied to open their own hospitals and medical schools, often with the help of white individuals and churches, to obtain the education and opportunities to provide health care to blacks and others with limited access. Civil rights advocates utilized the enforcement provisions of the civil rights laws to open the doors to America's selective health care system. While ambitious, those activists could not often bring about the results sought. With the inclusion of more women and minorities in the health care system, the political machinery of America's most powerful medical society finally swung around to supporting universal health care. Health reform was passed in Congress under the first black president of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama II-without a single Republican vote. In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, along with the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act. These two pieces of groundbreaking legislation comprise America's new health care system. Because of the sordid history of anti-black racism and the lack of adequate health care in the United States, this legislation has particular significance for blacks. America's new health care system has received a largely positive reception from blacks and others. The benefits of the new health reform cannot be overstated, especially for people who have been so heavily excluded from the health care system. Even though the ACA creates unprecedented healthcare access for many citizens, and strives to correct many historical wrongs, it is not a perfect plan. Rather, it is an evolving plan that seeks to encourage suggestions and solutions toward a healthier America for all citizens.
Jennifer Smith, The Color of Pain: Blacks and the U.S. Health Care System--Can the Affordable Care Act Help to Heal a History of Injustice?, Part I, 72 NLG REV. 238 (2015)