OPINION

Why The Affordable Care Act Matters To Hispanics

Alex Gonzalez trains volunteers for Enroll America, a non-profit organization running a campaign to encourage people to sign up for the ACA.

Alex Gonzalez trains volunteers for Enroll America, a non-profit organization running a campaign to encourage people to sign up for the ACA.  (AP)

While the government may have shut down October 1st, our phone lines are ringing as people are calling us to get information about what the Affordable Care Act means for them. In each person’s voice there was an urgency that came through. It was clear that there are many misconceptions about whether or not it would help and what they had to do now. The fear that has been peddled by many has created an unfair assault on what should be seen as an opportunity.

[The ACA] is a critical first step for the long road ahead that we must travel to fully achieve the health care reform that we all want and need.

- Dr. Jane Delgado

For us it is clear that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is an important step in improving the lives of all Americans and especially for Hispanics. Implementation of the ACA will make it possible for many people to obtain health insurance who up to now had no options for purchasing health insurance. 

For Hispanics, obtaining affordable health insurance is particularly critical as we are the community least likely to have health insurance. The lack of health insurance among Hispanics is usually driven by two factors. First, Hispanics are more likely to work in places that do not provide health insurance for their employees. Additionally, Hispanics are likely to be independent contractors or cobble together several part-time jobs in order to provide income for their families. 

In both of these cases options for purchasing health insurance are very limited. 

Second, because in some states like Texas a modest income disqualifies a person from any public health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act makes it possible for persons to buy health insurance. This is even possible when the person has a pre-existing condition, like diabetes, that prevented many Hispanics from obtaining coverage in the past even when their employer offered it. The coverage that was out of reach is now affordable and for those with very modest incomes there is some support from the government to help pay for premiums. 

Will there be glitches as this program unfolds? Of course. Perfection on rollout of a new program is never expected, especially for something as huge as health care where success will be driven by addressing the circumstance of the individual. What is expected are improvements as we move along the way and work to improve coverage for those who have gone without it for so long.

Is the ACA the answer to all of our health issues? Of course not, but it is a way to provide health insurance for those who up to now could not obtain it. It is a critical first step for the long road ahead that we must travel to fully achieve the health care reform that we all want and need. We have to work together to get there because this is a matter of life and death.

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Dr. Jane Delgado is president and CEO of National Alliance for Hispanic Health, based in Washington, DC.

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