Health is wealth. I’m sure you’ve seen this phrase before. In the black community it’s a common affirmation. A somewhat nebulous piece of advice that’s often dispensed by our elders. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably received this directive with not deaf ears but honestly something very close to it. But, if you take the time to unpack this colloquialism, you’ll find there is much wisdom in it. Don’t let the catchiness to this phrase fool you – it’s an astute observation.

During this year of national reckoning, one thing that has become more apparent than ever is the disparity in access to quality healthcare for Black Americans compared to the rest of the country. This gap can be measured in the rising costs of co-pays, prescriptions, and premiums. It’s also heartbreakingly obvious when you look at our infant and maternal mortality rates. According to a study conducted by the CDC, Black women fared the worst, dying 2½ times more often than white women (37.1 vs 14.7 deaths per 100,000 live births). When the cost isn’t too extreme to participate, Black Americans are often failed by this country’s current healthcare system.

As bad as things currently are, imagine living without the protections provided by the Affordable Care Act. Even in the midst of a pandemic, the repeal of this law seems to be an inevitability. Covid-19 has taken a higher, unfair toll on the Black Americans. Those of us lucky to survive have a better than average chance of living with pre-existing conditions than the rest of the population. Contemplating how to get insurance coverage when providers are no longer legally compelled to provide it, is distressing to a community that is already disenfranchised in other aspects of daily life.

Health is wealth, and we have again been systematically separated from ours. We truly cannot be free until we have access to health insurance at a basic level to exist.