One of the great successes of Obamacare was in
the surge of Latinos newly insured
under the law. The uninsured rate among Latinos dropped from 36 percent to 23 percent from the summer of 2013 to spring of 2014. But with open enrollment for 2015 open now through mid-February, activists see a great deal of room for improvement. That's because nearly a quarter of the Latino population is still uninsured, and because there are still barriers
to getting them enrolled.
“When you have a community where a third of the people didn’t have health insurance, the process of informing people about their options and the choices they need to make requires more time,” said Jane Delgado, CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.
She pointed out that health insurance is confusing to most people, even those who have had it for a long time. "It's the nuances that make it complicated. It’s not like buying a television, where a TV’s a TV and there are some fine differences based on their choice," she said. "These are matters of life and death."
In addition some Hispanic people have expressed a belief that they don’t need health insurance, Delgado said.
For instance, in a 2013 survey by the Urban Institute, fewer than half the Hispanics polled disagreed with the statement “I’m healthy enough and I don’t really need health insurance,” compared with 64 percent of whites—implying that Hispanics were more likely to go without insurance.
"Our response to people is, ‘Can you afford not to have it?'" Delgado said.
The issue of health insurance being confusing certainly isn't limited to any single group—not even to just the uninsured—because it is a confusing process for everyone. But that confusion is compounded by language barriers. One of the issues for the 2014 enrollment period was that there just weren't enough Spanish-language resources available to do the kind of outreach and education needed. The parallel Spanish-language federal website was even buggier and more problematic than Healthcare.gov.
The White House has focused on Latino outreach in the opening days of the 2015 enrollment season, with HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell doing a Google hangout with Latino bloggers and interviews on Univision and Telemundo. Additionally, La Raza and the National Alliance are working with Spanish-language broadcasters and with community-based organizations around the country to get word out. Administration officials are also in Texas and Florida, focusing on enrollment efforts in those states with high Latino populations.
But that reflects another barrier to getting insurance to this population: Texas and Florida—the two states with the highest uninsured rates—also didn't expand Medicaid. That immediately cuts about 1 million Latinos out of coverage. The heavy focus by the administration in those states does intend to try to reach the largest populations of uninsured people to get them coverage, but it is partly political. It's shining a light on how many people are still left out because of the refusal by Republican lawmakers to help their constituents.
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