Sebelius: Thanks to Obamacare, Law Student Can 'Devote Her Career' to Social Justice

Elizabeth Harrington | April 13, 2012 | 2:32pm EDT
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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. ( Starr)

( – Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Thursday that Obamacare had made it possible for a 25-year-old law student to devote her career to working on social justice issues instead of working for a big law firm.

At Rev. Al Sharpton’s 14th annual NAN conference, Sebelius touted the Administration’s health care overhaul, which she also said was responsible for helping close racial and ethnic health gaps in the country.

“Because of the steps we’ve taken there are 410,000 African American young adults across the country who were uninsured but now have insurance coverage under their parents’ health plan, thanks to the new law,” Sebelius said.

“Now one of them was with me in Miami a couple of weeks ago a 25-year-old law student named Ashley,” she said, highlighting the student as a success story for the Affordable Care Act’s policy that allows children to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they are 26.

“Now Ashley is one of those young people who make you have renewed faith in the future of this country,” Sebelius continued.  “She’s bright.  She’s dedicated.  She is working on her law degree.”

“She wants to devote her career to working on social justice issues, which is why she’s going to law school,” she said.  “And she can go ahead and pursue that dream now because she no longer has to worry about getting health coverage.

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Sebelius then praised the policy for allowing the student to avoid working at a “big firm.”

“What Ashley told me is that she was afraid she’d have to go to work for a big firm that she didn’t want to do, or go to, choose a job to get some health coverage in the future, but now she can not only stay on her parents’ plan as she goes through law school but also make sure that she has affordable coverage when she comes out of law school she can pursue the job of her dreams and really serve her community,” she said.

Sebelius’ remarks came at the annual conference hosted by Rev. Sharpton at the Washington Convention Center.  The HHS secretary also spoke about the “persistent racial and ethnic health disparities” in the U.S.

Sebelius said minority Americans are more likely to go without preventative care, suffer from serious illness, and have limited access to treatment.

“So as a result we have way too many minority Americans living sicker and dying younger than they should,” she said.  “And those inequalities spill over into other areas.”

“It’s hard to pay attention in class when you’ve got a toothache and you can’t find a dentist or afford to go to the dentist to get it fixed,” Sebelius continued.  “It’s hard to go to work everyday if you’ve got a chronic condition that’s not being managed.  It’s hard to take care of your family when you have a stack of unpaid medical bills sitting on the kitchen table.  So if we can begin to close the disparities in health, we begin to close disparities in those other areas too.”

Sebelius then praised President Barack Obama for implementing an action plan through HHS and the Affordable Care Act to address health gaps.

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