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Guest Voz: No More Time to Delay: It’s Time for Latinos to Sign Up for the Affordable Care Act

By Vanessa Cárdenas

Last week, President Obama held a historic town hall hosted by the leading Spanish language outlets – Univision, impreMedia and Telemundo – to impress upon the Latino community the importance of enrolling for healthcare ahead of the March 31st deadline.

This town hall, unprecedented in its reach, aimed to highlight how important healthcare access is for the Latino community given its healthcare needs. The town hall was rebroadcast nationwide Saturday, March 8th on Univision and Telemundo.

Already the Affordable Care Act is benefiting the community.

Today, thanks to the ACA, 10.2 million uninsured Latinos now have the opportunity to purchase quality, affordable coverage through the Marketplace, and according to a Department of Health and Human Services’ analysis, as many as 8 million of those 10 million could get a break on costs.

The report finds that nearly 8 in 10 uninsured Latinos may qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or lower costs on monthly premiums through the Health Insurance Marketplace. What this means is that, for example, a family of four in Dallas who earns $50,000 a year could pay as little as $26 a month. Or a similar family in Jacksonville could find one for $19.

The Affordable Care Act is, as its name implies, affordable, and the benefits far outweigh the costs.

The ACA has already provided many benefits to the Latino community: 736,000 young Latinos under the age of 26 have already gained access to health insurance through the ACA, and 8.2 million Latinos with private insurance now have access to free preventive services, including an estimated 4.9 million Latinas with private health insurance who now have guaranteed access to no-cost family planning care, maternity services and other services mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer, prenatal care, flu and pneumonia shots, and regular well-baby and well-child visits with no cost-sharing.

In addition, the ACA provides funding to community health centers which not only provides health services to communities but are also economic engines for the communities they serve. Data shows that 1 in 3 patients of health centers is Latino.

Despite these benefits, Republicans continue their campaign to try to dismantle the law. In fact, just earlier this week, House Republicans voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the 50th time since the law was passed in 2010.

The repeal bill they passed would result in a million additional uninsured Americans. This in spite of the fact that a government report released Wednesday detailed how the U.S. economy is already benefiting from the law: by driving up personal income and consumer spending. Furthermore, the CBO report found that the ACA will actually reduce unemployment.

Immigrant communities also need to remember that signing up for healthcare won’t lead to immigration enforcement. The information provided in the Marketplace will only be used for determining access to health coverage and the use of health care services through the Marketplace won’t be considered to be a public charge.

At the town hall, President Obama himself reaffirmed that no personal information on ACA applications would be shared with immigration services.

Because of all its benefits, organizations like NCLR, LULAC and other national and local organizations are ramping up their efforts in the next few weeks to ensure that the community takes advantage of this opportunity.

Local organizations in states with high concentrations of Hispanics – like Texas, Arizona, and Florida – are increasing their efforts through Latino Enrollment Summits, door-to-door outreach, and through community center events.

Ensuring that Latinos sign up before the deadline is very important to the success of the law; not just because President Obama wants it to succeed; but rather because the community will benefit greatly by having affordable and quality healthcare.

While politicians in Washington may continue in their efforts to repeal the law; the bottom line is that every elected official should be working to ensure that everyone have healthcare access. It is common sense and would only contribute to the well-being of our population moving forward.

Vanessa Cárdenas is the vice president of Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress, where she focuses on the intersection of policy and race, with particular attention to demographic changes, immigration, and issues relevant to the growing Latino community in the U.S.

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