Latinos Continue to Shy from Obamacare Enrollment

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 13:45

Although The Affordable Care Act seeks to provide medical insurance to the uninsured at affordable rates, those who could perhaps benefit the most from this program have not been enrolling. Every one in three Latinos is uninsured, making this the ethnic group with largest number of uninsured people residing in the United States.1 Several factors contribute to this lack of enrollment including fear of deportation, general lack of awareness about the program, language barriers, and restricted internet access.

Most Obamacare-eligible applicants live in homes where at least one member is undocumented. Despite the fact that the government has promised not to share information gathered through enrollment with immigration services, many Latinos still remain wary of sharing personal information. This wariness, however, is not unwarranted, since the Obama administration has deported a record number of undocumented immigrants during its first term.2 Jane Delgado, the chief executive of The National Alliance for Hispanic Health, states that this organization has seen a large spike in calls post-Obamacare implementation. Before the program began, the organization received about 300 monthly calls, a number which has now risen to 4,000.1 Many of the callers are concerned about the effects that enrollment will have on their undocumented family members.

In addition to fears of deportation, undocumented family members would have to begin paying taxes upon enrollment in the program.2 This is the case of many families, especially for undocumented parents who wish to use the exchange to find coverage for their children. Undocumented family members would have to provide income information and therefore must also begin paying income taxes.

Not all states ask for their applicants’ race and ethnicity, making exact statistics difficult to find. In California, less than 20% of applicants identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, although it is estimated that 46% of those eligible are indeed Latino.1 Compared to the general population, however, Latinos have been shown to be more supportive of the new law. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center, 61% of Hispanics favor the law while only 29% of whites show support for Obamacare.2

Another issue that prevents Latinos from applying to the exchange is a lack of awareness of the program. This may be due to a shortage of bilingual assistance. There has also been concern about the lack of enrollment counselors, especially in states that oppose The Affordable Care Act.1 Florida and Texas, two states that oppose the program, both host large Latino populations. Although supporter states such as California have set up their own websites aimed at Latinos for facilitated access, these two states refuse to create their own sites.2 This forces uninsured Latinos to use the faulty federal online exchange.

Language and internet access have similarly been barriers in relation to the program’s websites. The Spanish language version of the site was not published until December, and was full of mistakes and incomplete translations. Also, some Latinos may live in households with limited internet access, causing them to seek outside help from enrollment counselors. Some, like Ricardo Hernandez are also discouraged from to signing up due to a lack of at home internet access. He stated, "I just feel like a bother constantly to have to ask a friend or a neighbor to use their computer."2Latinos without the tools necessary for enrollment feel burdensome asking others for help.

Those in favor of the program are making efforts to make enrollment more accessible for ethnic minorities. Some states, such as California and Minnesota, have created new campaigns specifically targeted at the Latino population so that they will have the information and resources necessary to enroll.1 California recently released new bilingual advertisements as part of the I’m In/Tengo Un Plan campaign.3Supporters think that by seeing other community members enroll, more Latinos will begin to use this government resource. In order for the program to be successful, Obamacare supporters will have to reach out to eligible minority groups such as Latinos to inform them about the availability and benefits of insurance.

 

Works Cited:

1) Luhby, Tami. “Latinos not flocking to Obamacare.” CNN Money. CNN. 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014. (http://money.cnn.com/2014/02/18/news/economy/obamacare-latinos/)

2) Dobuzinskis, Alex and Curtis Skinner. “Concern Over Immigration Status Hurst Obamacare Enrollment Among Latinos.” Latino Politics. The Huffington Post. 18 Dec. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2014. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/18/obamacare-enrollment-latinos_n_...)

3) “Campaign: I'm In/Tengo Un Plan.” Digital Toolbox. Covered California. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014. (http://digitaltoolbox.coveredca.com/p/campaign-im-in.html)

About Author(s)

Madeline Townsend
Madeline is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh. She is pursuing a degree in Spanish and Global Studies, with a focus on the Latin American region. She plans to present an honors thesis on visual representations of the internal conflict that occurred in Peru between 1980 and 2000. She also studies Portuguese and Film Studies as minors and works as one of the Panoramas interns.