The recent Supreme Court ruling on subsidies offered under the Affordable Care Act protected millions of Americans from losing access to affordable health insurance, including approximately 4.2 million Latinos. This sector of the population is important not only to lawmakers and supporters of Obamacare but to the general insured population as well. Latinos, historically the most underrepresented group among the insured, help to drive down the cost of insurance because they tend to require fewer medical services compared with other insured groups.
Before the ACA went into effect, Latinos represented about 30 percent of the uninsured population. The last five years have seen some improvement in enrollment, but officials have work to do in order to secure a more promising future for the Latino community.
Between the first and second enrollment periods, 11 percent of Latinos had enrolled in a plan. It appears that targeted marketing toward this demographic has resulted in a slight upswing in insurance participation.
There are several proposed reasons for the increase in sign-ups. Medicaid expansion in states like California opened up access to health insurance among low-income residents, of which Latinos represent a fair majority.
California has already reported promising numbers on Latino enrollment. In that state, approximately half of the uninsured Latino population enrolled in health insurance by the end of the first sign-up period. Of those, 24 percent signed up for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. Texas, which also has a high Latino population, opted against Medicaid expansion and has seen little improvement in enrollment for this demographic.
To date, the Department of Health and Human Services has released only preliminary numbers on Latino enrollment nationwide. Since 2010, the rate of those without insurance among Latinos has dropped by approximately 12.3 percent. Actual numbers are harder to pin down since many people do not identify race or ethnicity on official government forms. In a report published in March 2015, the HHS also noted that Latinos were more likely to sign up for health insurance this year than they were last year.
Reaching the Latino population has presented a challenge to community organizers and health care officials. With diverse backgrounds and cultures to consider, proponents of the ACA have been working to educate Latinos on the benefits of the new law in order to attract a higher percentage of enrollees. Language barriers, technical glitches, administrative errors and misunderstandings about the legal implications for undocumented family members have contributed to lower-than-expected enrollment numbers among the Latino community.
Still, Obamacare’s supporters have been optimistic with the preliminary numbers and the general satisfaction rate among those within the Latino population who have benefited from the ACA so far. The challenge ahead includes reaching sectors of the population that shy away from government-sponsored programs.