Enrolling Latinos For Health Insurance A Major Priority


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Photo: Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune

Bill Sarno

As Access Health CT’s 2014-15 enrollment for the Affordable Care Act gets under way one of the major challenges is to sign up more people, particularly Latinos, despite having less time for outreach than during the program’s initial rollout.
However, Access Health CT, which is the state’s health insurance exchange, is getting a big boost in its three-month drive to close a significant health coverage gap between Hispanics and the general population from a partnership of the Hispanic Federation, AARP and Latino Community Services.
Each partner brings resources and strong community bonds to the table. In addition, the Federation and AARP participated in last year’s multi-state Latino Affordable Care Act Education Campaign.
It is this “breadth of engagement” that is the strength of this alliance, said Ingrid Alvarez, Hispanic Federation’s Connecticut state director, in a press release announcing the partnership’s role.
Before the first enrollment, which ran five months, Hispanics, who comprise about 14 percent of the state’s overall population, represented about 25 percent of the uninsured. According to Access Health, 22 percent of those buying private insurance or signing up for Medicaid were Hispanic.
During the second enrollment, which ends Feb. 15, the state would like  to cut the number of uninsured in Connecticut by half, which includes getting as many as 40,000 people to enroll in Medicaid.
Access Health CT estimates that about two-thirds of Connecticut’s remaining 140,000 uninsured residents are minority and urban, according to a report on ctnewsjunkie.com. The exchange plans to focus on cities such as New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury, New Britain, and Meriden, places where the Hispanic population is greatest.
These communities are also where the Hispanic Federation has built an extensive network of nonprofit Hispanic agencies to address the needs of the Latino population.
The Federation’s Connecticut office, under the leadership of Alvarez and with the support and resources of the parent organization based in New York City, has a mobilization strategy in place and was able to bring many Latinos to register and vote for the first time in the Nov. 4 election.
AARP also has a large volunteer and leadership network. Among this organization’s top priorities, Nora Duncan, state director, said “is providing information and resources to help Connecticut families make critical decisions about their healthcare is a top priority for AARP.”
Latino Community Services, which is part of the Hispanic Federation network, also offers health expertise and strong community ties. The Hartford-based organization’s primary mission has been to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community and to provide “culturally” appropriate” services to those diagnosed with HIV.
LCS Executive Director Fernando Morales said he wants his clients have “the tools necessary to understand any health decision so they can make the informed choice.”
AARP and Latino Community Services, Inc. are working together in various  communities to train volunteers and staff to inform the public about ACA and Medicaid through through public presentations and information distribution at health and community fairs.
Information about upcoming events is available from AARP Connecticut at 866-295-7279 or Latino Community Services at 860-296-6400.
Enrollment is available online in English and Spanish at accesshealthct.com. Access Health operates enrollment centers where there is staff and information to guide enrollment at 200 Main St., New Britain and at 55 Church St., New Haven. These insurance stores are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays ans 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The website also lists various libraries and community centers were enrollment is scheduled each week.
Buttressing the state’s outreach efforts, the partnership of AARP, Latino Community Services and the Federation, is working to improve communication across stakeholder groups and to ensure that there is no “wrong door,” Alvarez said in a press release.
“An uninsured person, no matter what their situation, will find answers when they come to us,” said the Federation’s state director.