By Broderick Johnson, White House, and Armin Brott, Men’s Health Network
As men, we don’t always prioritize our health the way we should. So many other responsibilities seem to come first, such as work, family, or making sure our friends and co-workers can count on us. Those things are immensely important, no question. But too often, we fail to appreciate the crucial role that health plays in our ability to deliver on these responsibilities, and we owe it to those we love and depend on us to take our health seriously.
This holiday season, many men will be sitting down with their families to talk about what’s important to them and what makes them grateful. And ultimately, there’s nothing more important than our health and the health of those we love. So, this is the perfect time for men to talk to their families about what they’re doing to stay healthy, and what they’re doing to protect themselves and their families from both preventable diseases and unexpected health problems.
Men account for 57%—nearly six million—of the 10.5 million Americans who are currently uninsured and eligible to purchase health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. That’s a sobering statistic, particularly since health insurance coverage is a key factor in protecting yourself and your family against a health emergency.
Now Is the Time for Action
The Health Insurance Marketplace offers many coverage options—at a lower cost than you might expect—and it’s open for business from now through January 31st. If you or someone you know needs health insurance, now’s your chance to sign up for quality and affordable coverage. Note: If you need 2016 coverage and want it to begin on January 1, you must enroll at HealthCare.gov by December 15. Only a few days remain before the December 15th deadline; don’t miss your chance to get covered.
For many folks, financial help is available to make coverage more affordable. In fact, about 80% of uninsured people who are eligible for Marketplace coverage qualify for financial assistance to lower the cost of their monthly premiums. And more than 7 in 10 can find low-premium plans for $75 or less per month. Learn more about your options at healthcare.gov, and sign up before Open Enrollment ends.
Help Us Get the Word Out
We’re encouraging men to talk to other men in their networks, whether they’re family members, friends, mentors, or mentees. We know that men are often willing to take advice from their peers, but sometimes conversations about topics like healthcare can be difficult to start. The Brother 2 Brother initiative is a great, simple tool to get men talking to each other about their health.
But men and boys aren’t the only ones who need to talk to each other about health; everyone in the family has a role to play. For example, research tells us that women are often healthcare leaders in their families, making about 80% of the healthcare decisions for their households. So mothers, sisters, spouses, and daughters: the men and boys in your life are listening (even when we act like we’re not!).You can play a really important role by talking about the value of health insurance with the men who matter to you. Knowing that his health matters not just to himself but to others, and that getting covered has an impact on his family might just be the extra motivation that a man needs
More than Just Coverage
Clearly, it’s important to have insurance to protect yourself and your loved ones should an emergency or unexpected condition strikes. But there are also many preventive services available to both men and women under the ACA, and men should know about these and take advantage of them.
One of the big keys to improving the health of our communities is raising awareness of what you can do with coverage once you have it. The Coverage to Care initiative at HHS has some great tools to guide people at every turn, from getting insurance, to choosing a doctor and getting that first appointment. We encourage you to use resources like Coverage to Care when talking to friends and loved ones, because it answers the “what next” question that a lot of people will have when signing up.
We’re also working hard to engage men in a variety of ways throughout this Open Enrollment season. We’re connecting with them at events and health fairs, in collaboration with faith-based and other community partners, and via digital media like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs like this one.
We believe that men talking about their health will help make men’s health a priority at both the individual and community level. In the weeks to come, we look forward to hearing your inspirational stories of why health matters to you, or the men in your lives.
Broderick Johnson is Assistant to the President and White House Cabinet Secretary. He also is the Chairman of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.
Armin Brott is a pioneer in the field of fatherhood and has been building better fathers for more than a decade. As the author of eight bestselling books on fatherhood, he’s helped millions of men around the world become the fathers they want to be—and that their children need them to be. He’s also the host of “Positive Parenting,” a weekly radio program which airs live in the San Francisco Bay Area and worldwide on the American Forces Network.
Men’s Health Network (MHN) is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to reach men, boys, and their families where they live, work, play, and pray with health awareness and disease prevention messages and tools, screening programs, educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and patient navigation.