By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA)—In the final, frenzied push to boost health insurance enrollment numbers under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama turned to sports figures to promote the health care law on television and online.
Riding on the wave of the highly-anticipated NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, also known as March Madness, the move could capture the attention of young blacks, who often view celebrities and professional athletes as positive role models.
Visitors to the http://www.whitehouse.gov/acabracket web page can still download the president’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Bracket which exploded like thousands of other brackets last week when 14th ranked Mercer University upset third ranked Duke University 78-71 in the second round.
Online viewers also voted on in a video GIF contest titled “The 16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered.” A video titled, “Women can’t be charged more than men” featuring First Lady Michelle Obama and NBA superstar Lebron James video bombing Miami Heat players Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra won the People’s Choice Award in the short video contest inspired by the Affordable Care Act.
When serious and casual college basketball fans tune in to ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA-TV to catch up on March Madness action, they’ll see NBA superstar Lebron James in a 30-second television ad encouraging people, especially young, healthy people to get covered. NBA legend Magic Johnson and former NBA star Alonzo Mourning, each who have battled highly-publicized health problems, appeared in similar ads.
The ads, largely paid for by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could go a long way in sparking conversations about the need for health insurance coverage in the black community. According to a study by the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, black children and teens are exposed to at least 80 percent more ads than their white peers. Commercials often feature more positive portrayals of black men when compared to prime time television.
According to a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services, almost two million Americans suffered sports-related injuries. including ankle and knee sprains that landed them in the emergency room, one of the most expensive places to get medical treatment.
“Some sports-related injuries, such as sprained ankles, may be relatively minor, while others, such as head or neck injuries, can be quite serious,” stated the HHS report.
The report sports-related injuries continued: “The most common of these were ankle or knee sprains and leg fractures. Estimated rates of sports-related injuries were even higher among children and young adults under the age of 25. An estimated 12 million individuals between the ages of 5 and 22 years suffer a sports related injury annually, and about 20 percent of all injury-related emergency room visits are among children 6 to 19 years of age.”
The most common basketball injuries for adults 25 to 40 years-old were ankle and knee sprains, then facial injuries and broken fingers.
NBA veteran and Miami Heat forward Shane Battier said that through 25 years of competitive basketball, he’s received over 90 stitches from elbows to the face, sprained his ankles more than 25 times, suffered broken elbows, reconstructive ankle surgery and arthritis in the knees and the hip.
“These injuries can happen to anyone,” said Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. “For those without health insurance they can be very expensive.”
According to the HHS report: “For 25- to 40-year-olds, the estimated average charges for a leg fracture were about $3,403, while the estimated average charges for an arm fracture were about $7,666 (2011 dollars), according to 2009-2011 pooled data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.”
In 2012, emergency departments treated nearly 600,000 basketball injuries. For adults, sprains cost on average $2,294 and broken arms cost $7,666, medical expenses that most people would struggle to pay out of pocket the report noted.
Emergency rooms reported almost 500,000 football injuries coming through their doors and about 10,000 of those required hospitalization.
The costs associated with treating a broken leg for someone 10- to 19 years-old was $4,700 and a broken arm cost almost $3,000. Charges for treating dislocations for the same age group averaged $6,900 and for 25 to 40 year-olds the average was roughly $4,600. The average cost for treated sprains and strains was about $2,300.
The rate of injuries in basketball and football may have a disproportionate impact in the black community, where young black men play basketball and football at higher rates than their white peers.
In a study on high school sports participation and educational attainment, researchers from the University of Minnesota reported that black boys “are 1.6 times more likely than their white counterparts to play football, and 2.5 times more likely to play basketball.”
The University of Minnesota study observed: “When other factors are controlled for, black males are actually 2.5 times more likely to play football and 5.7 times more likely to play basketball than white males.”
NBA veteran Shane Battier said that sooner or later, if you’re active and you play sports, chances are you’re going to get banged up at some point.
“The bottom line is this: you have to protect yourself and make sure that if you get hurt on the court or on the field that you’re covered,” said Battier.
In a blog post on the report at http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services wrote that six out of 10 uninsured Americans will pay about $100 a month or less for a health insurance plan.
“That broken arm would take almost 10 years to pay off at that rate without considering interest or harm to your credit,” wrote Sebelius.
Sebelius added: “Whether you’re out on the slopes or playing the boss in a pickup game of basketball after that stressful meeting, you don’t want to have to hold back because you aren’t covered in case of injury.”