Health Care Reform Hurdles: Almost 60 Percent of Uninsured Texans Are Hispanic

Even in the state with the highest uninsured rate in the country, Hispanics in Texas stand out as having among the worst uninsured rates of any population. Almost 60 percent of the uninsured in Texas are Hispanic, representing over 3 million people. Though much of this group will be newly eligible for health insurance in October, translating eligibility into enrollment isn't as easy as it sounds.

According to the Texas Tribune, two-thirds of Hispanics in the U.S. say they do not have enough information about health reform to know how it might affect them. On top of a lack of information, 22 percent of Hispanics in Texas will remain uninsured because of Rick Perry's refusal to expand Medicaid.

The Affordable Care Act provides funding for "navigators" to help walk newly eligible people through the enrollment process, and Texas just got over $10 million to train them. But Texas has also 5 million people who will be newly eligible, who can't all be reached through navigators alone — especially the harder-to-reach populations. And according to the Washington Post, many "Hispanic health centers and community organizations say they don't have the funding or resources to carry out the complicated sign-up process." But several organizations are rising to the challenge.

Enroll America is reaching out to particular communities that have the highest uninsured rates among Hispanics: women, youth, laborers and mixed status families. Specific campaigns will center around faith, labor, farmworkers and targeting young Hispanics with a strong social media campaign. According to Ashley Allison, Enroll America's Director of Constituency Engagement, "When we let people know that the access to healthcare is going to fit their needs and budget and bring security to their family they are eager to learn more about their options." To expand their reach, Enroll America is partnering with groups like the National Hispanic Medical Association, the National Council of La Raza, the Hispanic Access Foundation and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

There's also a Spanish version of HealthCare.gov called CuidadoDeSalud.gov, which helps to preempt language barriers at least for those looking for information online. But getting Hispanics enrolled is clearly going to take a varied and concerted outreach effort that goes far beyond a basic information campaign — especially given the importance of enrolling young Hispanics in the overall success of health care reform. In addition to the inherent value of enrolling uninsured people, the Obama Administration is relying on millions of healthy young adults signing up for health insurance in order to balance out the health insurance exchanges, and is targeting young Hispanic men in particular.

In a speech to the National Council of La Raza, Michelle Obama noted that young people are "the ones who always think they're invincible," adding, "We all have the power and the urgent responsibility to get after our young people and get them to sign up. Because while they may roll their eyes for a moment, we know that when mama and abuela speak, they listen. That's where you come in." It's an important point — that enrolling the uninsured will be a community effort. Without political support nationally or (especially) locally to allocate any additional resources to help with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the heavy lifting will be done by an administration that needs this bill to succeed, community organizations dedicated to reaching out to the underserved, and perhaps most critically — people willing to personally reach out to the uninsured in their own communities.  

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