Obamacare for CT Latinos


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By Christina Rose

Latinos stand to gain the most from the Affordable Health Care Act.
Blacks and Latinos are at a critical and historical junction regarding health care, said Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, director of Health Equity for Families USA said during an Aug. 21 teleconference sponsored by the organization.
Planning is in action in many states, including Connecticut, to provide workshops and assistance through community-based organizations that will receive federal grants to work as navigators through the new system.
Connecticut’s Insurance Marketplace, which can be accessed at  http://www.accesshealthct.com/, will offer help with enrollment
“If you don’t have your health, you have nothing, and in many minority communities there has been too much nothing,” Hernández-Cancio said.
Beginning Oct. 1, enrollment will begin for new insurance options that will begin in January. According to Cheryl Fish-Parcham, deputy director of health policy for Families USA, even people who have been locked out of insurance due to pre-existing conditions or who could not afford coverage will be able to get coverage.
Medicaid will be available to individuals whose income is up to 138 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which is over $15,000 for an individual and over $31,000 for a family of four. Families of four above the poverty line with incomes up $94,200, which is 400 percent above the poverty line, will be able to apply for financial assistance in advance and will have lower monthly premiums.
Hernández-Cancio said health and welfare disparities for minorities, particularly Latinos, are well documented, and that “minorities have struggled with chronic diseases, not just in terms of prevalence and severity of negative outcomes, but we are more likely to get sick and sicker.”
Hernández-Cancio said Latinos would benefit from the health care act greatly because of the multiple, unique obstacles they currently face. Besides mixed immigration status, language barriers and lack of prior insurance, she said, “We need lower rate insurance. While one out of eight whites lack insurance, over one in three Latinos are uninsured.”
According to Hernández-Cancio, 7.9 million people of color will be eligible for financial assistance to pay for coverage, and there will be expanded Medicare and Medicaid.
Because many Latinos are uncomfortable sharing personal information, such as legal status, with strangers, navigators will be trusted organizations well-known in the community and may include churches, community organizations and health centers. They will play an essential role in providing residents with comprehensive, unbiased assistance and advice during the enrollment process, Parcham said.
Navigators will be trained “in the needs of the underserved and vulnerable populations, and will know the racial and ethnic groups of the area, and will be experts in how to reach them,” she added.
Edgar Aguilar, program manager of Community Health Initiative of Kern County, Calif., said in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way, there are real opportunities to receive health care.
“My heart breaks when a parent comes to me and says, ‘What can I do,’ with desperation in her voice because they are worried about their uninsured child.”
He added building relationships and breaking down barriers is what health reform is all about, “because we understand the challenges communities face.”
A short list of negotiators in Connecticut is available to help individuals understand the changes, and there are job offerings for those who pass background checks.
The website is available in 70 different languages. Besides offering assistance in managing the new health care options, employment positions are open throughout the country for people who pass background checks. Applications can be filled out online to become certified application counselors and people can visit marketplace.
Additional information is available at the Center for Medicare and Medicade Services at http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Fact-Sheets-and-FAQs/ and Family USA, which sponsored the conference, also has a user friendly website at http://familiesusa.org/.
Healthcare.gov also hosts information for families and individuals and operates a call center 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800-318-2956. Information is available in English and Spanish.