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Latino participation in Obamacare in the health exchanges is a high priority for the Obama administration in implementing the Affordable Care Act, but that's going to require funding that Latino groups surveyed by the National Council of La Raza fear will be lacking.
Hispanic health centers and community organizations say they don’t have the funding or resources to carry out the complicated sign up process for the 10 million Latinos who will be eligible for new public and subsidized health coverage options.
“Even with the federal grants given out, it does not nearly cover the populations we have to reach and the amount of work we have to do,” says Lori Baptista, director of policy at the Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center Inc. in Hayward, California. The center sees 14,000 patients and clients each year; 78 percent are Latino, and 70 percent do not speak English as a first language. [...]
The survey asked respondents to describe their ACA outreach plans and identify challenges and barriers to enrollment. Those obstacles included lack of knowledge about coverage options and eligibility among patients and a lack of information from the state about plans, rules and regulations. A shortage of bilingual, bicultural staff trained in the enrollment process and insufficient funding for outreach efforts were also listed as important barriers.
Grants are available for community outreach such as this, using "navigators," people trained to provide assistance in filling out the forms, which will be about the same difficulty level as a federal tax return. Latino health centers are taking on a fair portion of the load, but have a more complex job than other community health centers in reaching a large part of the population that has never had insurance. Non-health community groups and assistance centers are also expected to pick up some of the load, but without the federal funding and with volunteers. The gateway now to information about Obamacare and to the upcoming health exchanges is the internet, another problem for these organizations, because much of the population they're assisting doesn't have access to online services.
The administration says Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Health and Human Services, is aware of the challenge. “As we move forward, we will continue reaching out to diverse communities, including those Americans who speak Spanish or other languages to ensure they can take advantage of new and better health insurance choices.”
Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 07:10 AM PDT.