The federal and state health insurance marketplaces will be open for the second round of enrollment from November 15, 2014, to February 15, 2015. For information on how to enroll, visit www.HealthCare.gov. The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, has helped millions of uninsured Americans—particularly Latinos—gain affordable, high-quality health care coverage. As enrollment for 2015 coverage begins, here are five facts to keep in mind about the effects of the ACA on the Latino community.
- Millions of Latinos have enrolled in health insurance coverage, but millions more still need to register. Since 2013, 2.6 million Latinos ages 18 to 64 have gained health insurance coverage, resulting in a nearly 8 percent drop in the Latino uninsured rate. While significant improvements have been made, the number of uninsured Latinos remains far too high; estimates suggest that approximately one in four Latinos continues to be uninsured.
- Health care is more affordable than ever for Latinos. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 8 in 10 uninsured Latinos may be eligible for Medicaid; the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP; or low-cost monthly premiums in the federal and state health insurance marketplaces. That number could rise to 95 percent of all Latinos if every state takes advantage of the opportunity to expand Medicaid. While payments vary based on income level and location, premiums are generally very affordable.
- As a result of the ACA, 8.8 million Latinos with private insurance have access to no-cost preventive care. All health care plans established after March 2010 must now provide many preventive care services at no additional cost—meaning that there are no deductible, co-payment, or co-insurance requirements for numerous preventive care services. These services include but are not limited to: blood pressure tests; cholesterol tests; colorectal cancer tests; Type 2 Diabetes tests; nutrition counseling; immunization vaccines; and obesity screenings. Some of the services covered under the ACA, such as the colorectal cancer test, can cost upwards of $1,000 for people who are uninsured. Latinos covered under the ACA could save thousands of dollars per year.
- Significant federal investments in health care quality continue to improve the treatment of chronic illnesses common in the Latino community. The ACA ensured that 11.8 million Latinos no longer have annual or lifetime limits on their health insurance. Latinos—especially those who suffer from chronic illnesses—no longer have to fear that their health insurance will stop covering their medical expenses.
- The ACA takes steps to reduce health disparities. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or DHHS, released an Action Plan to Reduce Health Disparities that upgraded its data collection standards. These upgrades were meant to develop a better understanding of health disparities and to ultimately lead to their elimination. Signing up for health care coverage allows Latinos to take steps to end health and wellness disparities in their community and be healthier and more productive people overall.
The benefits that come from health insurance coverage remain largely untapped by Latinos, with 25 percent of the U.S. Latino population is uninsured. Therefore, it is increasingly important that Latinos enroll in the Affordable Care Act before next month’s deadline.
Fernanda Denys Reyes is a former Progress 2050 intern and current student at Claremont McKenna College.