deion sanders aflac
Deion Sanders has partnered with Aflac to help address medical debt. (Screenshot)
Listen to this article here

COLUMBUS, Ga., – Aflac, a leading provider of supplemental insurance in the U.S., has launched a national initiative, Close the Gap, to address medical debt and disparities in health and wealth in America.

It’s an issue that affects close to 50% of Americans and disproportionately impacts people of color and those in low-income communities. The initiative shines a light on people who fall in the gap where health insurance ends and medical bills begin to pile up.

“The health and wealth gaps that exist in America are causing many families to decide between their health care and daily living expenses,” said Aflac U.S. President Teresa White. “Through education, support and advocacy, our new initiative can help close gaps that exist in communities across the country and drive positive and lasting change.”

Previously, The Black Wall Street Times recounted how Aflac helps families suffering from sickle cell disease and other similar disorders. As promised, the company is making major moves to address health disparities, which disproportionately impact African-Americans.

aflac deion sanders
In recent years, new treatments for sickle cell have surfaced. Photo Courtesy of CVS Health

Addressing medical debt 

For instance, the Close the Gap initiative is a multi-faceted, comprehensive program that aims to support, educate and advocate for the need to close the health and wealth gap. 

To provide further context to the national issue, the company has published the Aflac Care Index, a survey designed to help educate people about health and wealth disparities. The Aflac Care Index found: 

  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans’ savings are equivalent to or less than their health insurance out-of-pocket maximum.
  • Nearly a quarter (24%) of insured Americans have $0 in savings, and just under half (48%) have $1,000 or less in savings.
  • Only 26% of insured Americans say they have supplemental health coverage to help cover that financial gap.
xavier becerra medicaid expansion oklahoma
United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra in Tulsa  at Friendship Church in Tulsa, Okla. on Thursday, July 1, 2021 as the first day of Oklahoma’s medicaid expansion program begins. (Photo by Mike Creef / The Black Wall Street Times)
United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra in Tulsa  at Friendship Church in Tulsa, Okla. on Thursday, July 1, 2021 as the first day of Oklahoma’s medicaid expansion program begins. (Photo by Mike Creef / The Black Wall Street Times)

 Aflac creates film to highlight health disparities, recruits Coach “Primetime” Deion Sanders

In addition to the Index, Aflac is introducing its first film, “The Park Bench,” an animated short presented by Aflac that illustrates a real-life scenario many Americans experience when an unexpected medical event occurs. 

Through the eyes of a young girl whose father has been diagnosed with sickle cell disease, the story highlights the resulting impact of a medical event on the family. “The Park Bench” film was named an official selection of the sanctioned Sundance Film Event – Brand Storytelling 2022. It will premiere on Twitch Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. EST and will also be available to stream on Roku. 

Ultimately, as one of the company’s brand ambassadors, Deion Sanders “Coach Prime”, will continue his support of the company and its Close the Gap 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 my families – my fiancé and sons, as well as my football family. 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 are one step away from a medical incident that could easily lead to financial ruin,” said Sanders. 

“I have a shared commitment with Aflac to help close the gap for those without a voice and to bring greater awareness of the medical debt disparity in America,” he added.

jackson state university deion sanders
Jackson State head football coach Deion Sanders, center, holds the Orange Blossom Classic trophy after winning an NCAA college football game over Florida A&M, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)

 Closing the gap

Aflac announced in October its intent to give away $1 million to families, individuals and organizations throughout 2022, including the first 20 CareGrants delivered in December 2021 to individuals who overcame or were undergoing unexpected medical events. 

The $5,000 gifts were provided to help these individuals focus on their recovery by helping to alleviate some of the financial hardships associated with a medical event. Beginning in February, Aflac will expand its CareGrants program and award grants to communities greatly impacted by medical debt, as identified through data obtained via the Aflac Care Index. 

“Aflac’s Close the Gap initiative is designed to not only provide immediate financial support to individuals and communities in need but also, through storytelling and data, aims to help educate consumers and advocate for closing the gap in what health insurance doesn’t cover,” said Shannon Watkins, chief brand and marketing officer at Aflac.

“We’ve aligned with brand ambassadors and partners who share our vision for a future where hardworking Americans’ focus after a medical event is on recovery, not unexpected bills. This exciting initiative allows us to help close health and wealth gaps across the country and bring the Aflac brand purpose to life.”  

Learn more about Aflac’s Close the Gap initiative at

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...