Dec 14, 2021 - Health

A push to enroll Latinos in health insurance

Data: KFF; Chart: Will Chase/Axios
Data: KFF; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

U.S. Latino civil rights groups are running bilingual campaigns to get as many eligible people as possible to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act before the end of the year.

Why it matters: Latinos are one of most uninsured groups in the country, whether through public plans like Medicaid or private plans through employers.

  • This leaves them especially vulnerable when needing care, including hospitalization, preventive services, treatment of physical and mental ailments, or cases of pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Latinos who are primarily Spanish speakers historically fare much worse, using health services up to 42% less than non-Hispanic adults proficient in English.

What’s happening: UnidosUS has developed an ad campaign that complements efforts by the government and other groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), to explain and demystify the ACA enrollment process before it ends on Jan.15.

Between the lines: Rates have remained steady since 2018 — 1 in 4 Latinos don’t have health insurance coverage, census data shows.

  • Experts attribute the plateau to persistent fears from now-defunct Trump-era policies, such as a “public charge” rule, which prohibited immigrants who used benefits like housing subsidies or Medicaid from obtaining residency or citizenship.

The catch: During the pandemic, lack of insurance has been identified as a key obstacle that often prevents Latinos from timely COVID testing or treatment.

  • Those with lower English proficiency have frequently faced more significant barriers for COVID-19 related care and for vaccinations, per studies.
  • Latinos overall are among those most affected by coronavirus infections and deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For reference: Open enrollment is the yearly period in which people in the U.S. can sign up for an insurance plan, renew it, adjust it or cancel it.

  • Those interested in having health care coverage as soon as Jan. 1 would need to sign up by Wednesday at the latest.
  • If sign up is done by Jan. 15, coverage would begin Feb. 1.

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