Football legend Deion Sanders is on a mission to support individuals who have significantly been impacted by the country’s medical debt crisis. According to Forbes, the Pro Football Hall of Famer has joined forces with Aflac to create an initiative centered on tackling disparities within healthcare.
Research revealed there is $140 billion in past-due medical bills within the United States. The burden of healthcare costs has disproportionately impacted the Black community. Studies show 28 percent of African American households have medical debt compared to 17 percent of white households, a disparity that stems from systemic inequities within the nation’s healthcare system. Aware of the alarming statistics, Aflac—the largest provider of supplemental insurance—developed an initiative dubbed Close the Gap. It’s designed to use education and advocacy as tools to eradicate medical debt disparities.
Sanders—who serves as a brand ambassador for the program—says his personal experiences prompted his involvement in the initiative.
“When I was recently sidelined for months with my own unexpected medical emergency, I was not only reminded about how fortunate I am but also saw firsthand the impact it had on both of my families—my fiancé and son, as well as my football family,” he shared in a statement, according to the news outlet. “Fortunately, I was able to focus on my recovery and not worry about the cost. However, too many Americans, especially those of color, are not afforded the same peace of mind, and we are one step away from a medical incident that could easily lead to financial ruin.”
Shannon Watkins, chief brand officer and CMO of Aflac, added Close the Gap will provide immediate financial support for communities in need and use data and storytelling to “educate consumers and advocate for closing the gap in what health insurance doesn’t cover.” In 2021, the insurance company announced it would commit $1 million to nonprofits, families and individuals and donated 20 CareGrants to people who were hit with unexpected medical expenses.
Many stars in the realm of sports have stepped up to support healthcare-focused projects. NBA player Trae Young helped eliminate $1 million in medical debt for underprivileged families in Atlanta.