By Vanessa Gonzalez-Plumhoff
We all know someone, in our families, at work, or a neighbor, who ignored a nagging health concern because they didn’t have health insurance, didn’t have the money, or for one reason or another, just couldn’t get to a doctor.
Access to health care is an incredibly important issue for the Latino community. In 2012, three in ten (29 percent) of all Latinos in the U.S. were uninsured — higher than any other racial or ethnic group — and half of all Latinos do not have a regular doctor. One-quarter of all women in the U.S., including one-third of Latinas, delayed or avoided medical care because of the cost.
But starting today, millions of people across the country can begin enrolling in affordable health plans under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Latinos especially have a lot to gain from health care reform — it is estimated that up to nine million Latinos will gain health insurance of some form thanks to Obamacare.
Through Health Insurance Marketplaces, Latinos can choose a private health insurance plan that fits their health needs, and families can receive middle-class tax credits to help pay for private health insurance.
Planned Parenthood understands the importance of affordable health care, and wants to help all Americans, including Latinos, have the information and resources they need to enroll and choose a plan that best fits their needs.
Doctors and nurses in Planned Parenthood health centers serve nearly three million people every year, including over 600,000 Latinos, at nearly 750 Planned Parenthood health centers across the country.
We’ve launched a website, plannedparenthoodhealthinsurancefacts.org, designed to help you understand what the law means, how it will benefit you, and why it’s important to have health insurance. The website will be available in Spanish in mid-October.
Obamacare is the single biggest advancement for women’s health in a generation. It makes it easier for those who are insured to get access to basic preventive care with no additional copay — including lifesaving breast cancer screenings, well-woman exams, Pap tests, and immunizations — and it helps uninsured individuals get access to affordable health insurance that covers quality services.
Women cannot be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions or charged a higher premium than men. Insurance companies and employers (with the exception of churches and other places of worship) must also cover birth control without copays, which could save women up to $600 each year. More than half of women aged 18-34, including Latinas, say they have not used birth control consistently because of the cost.
The good news is that nearly 12 million women of reproductive age (and more than 2.5 million Latinas) will be newly eligible for insurance coverage. Our new websites will include a guide for women to use when searching for insurance coverage in the marketplace. Since many people will be searching for a plan for the first time, the interview guide can help women select the best plan for their needs — including the top four things you should consider when choosing an insurance plan:
• Is my preferred method of birth control covered?
• What’s covered if I get pregnant?
• Are there participating ob/gyns available in my area?
• What kinds of women’s health care services are provided?
There are a number of other benefits to Latinos under the Affordable Care Act. Young men and women can remain covered under their parent’s insurance until age 26, whether they are married, still in school, or looking for a job. Already 736,000 Latino young adults aged 19 to 25 who would have been uninsured now have coverage under their parent’s health plan.
Latinos joining new insurance plans will have guaranteed access to, and the freedom to choose, any primary care provider, ob/gyn, or pediatrician in their health plan’s network without having to wait for a doctor's referral or approval from the insurance company.
There will be an effort to increase the number of culturally sensitive doctors, nurses, and health care providers in underserved communities where they are needed most.
We know that improving access to health care and information will help improve the lives of women and their families. And now, through Obamacare, affordable health care is about to become reality.
Vanessa Gonzalez-Plumhoff is the director of Latino Leadership and Engagement for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.