AP NEWS

Physicians convene at a critical time

July 28, 2017 GMT

When the National Medical Association (NMA) was established in 1895 the government’s legal doctrine of “separate but equal” dictated virtually every aspect of American society.

“Racially exclusive ‘Jim Crow’ laws dominated employment, housing, transportation, recreation, education and medicine. Black Americans were subjected to all of the injustices inherent in a dual medicine care system,” notes the NMA on its website.

“Under the backdrop of racial exclusivity, membership in America’s professional organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA), was restricted to whites only. The AMA determined medical policy for the country and played an influential role in broadening the expertise of physicians. When a group of Black doctors sought membership into the AMA, they were repeatedly denied admission. Subsequently, the NMA was created for Black doctors and health professionals who found it necessary to establish their own medical societies and hospitals.”

Today the NMA is the nation’s oldest and largest organization representing African-American physicians and health professionals in the United States.

This weekend the NMA, which represents more than 30,000 members, will convene here in Philadelphia for the organization’s annual convention. More than 2,500 Black physicians and health professionals are expected to attend the convention held Saturday through Aug. 2 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The convention comes at a critical time.

When the NMA was founded the most critical issue was how to address the “inadequacies of a segregated health care system.”

While segregation is no longer legal, the issue of health care disparity still remains.

Access to affordable health care is one of the most critical issues facing Americans.

Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, sought to address the problem through his signature health care law in 2010.

Obama’s Affordable Care Act expands access to health care and prevents insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

But Republican lawmakers are seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Although imperfect, Obamcare is far better than the Republican lawmakers’ cruel health care plan which limits coverage, slashes Medicaid and creates roadblocks for those with pre-existing conditions.

NMA president Richard Williams said the organization has spoken out against efforts to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We have contacted legislators, including members of the House of Representatives and senators. We have lobbied in the halls of Congress and we have put notices out in media announcing our opposition to those bills that are intended to take health care coverage from at least 22 million people in the United States, including a large number of African Americans,” said Williams.

The NMA is convening in Philadelphia at a time when many Americans are worried and fearful over how or if their health care is going to be covered or paid. The views of the NMA will be an important voice to be heard on the future of health care in America.