GLOBAL ECONOMY

Uninsured rate among Latinos drops under Obamacare

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 22: Rene Hernandez (2nd R) and his wife Nery Hernandez speak with Rosaly Hernandez an insurance agent with Sunshine Life and Health Advisors as they try to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at the kiosk setup at the Mall of Americas on December 22, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  Tomorrow is the deadline for people to sign up if they want their new health benefits to kick in on the 1st of January. People have until March 31, to sign up for coverage that would start later.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 22: Rene Hernandez (2nd R) and his wife Nery Hernandez speak with Rosaly Hernandez an insurance agent with Sunshine Life and Health Advisors as they try to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at the kiosk setup at the Mall of Americas on December 22, 2013 in Miami, Florida. Tomorrow is the deadline for people to sign up if they want their new health benefits to kick in on the 1st of January. People have until March 31, to sign up for coverage that would start later. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)  (2013 Getty Images)

Despite its disastrous rollout, it seems that Obamacare has been paying off with one group: Hispanics.

According to a new report released on Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit organization that researches the healthcare system in the United States, the uninsured rate among Latinos ages 19-64 dropped dramatically during the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period.

The number of working-age uninsured Latinos fell from 36 percent to 23 percent, the report shows, and the drop in uninsured rates was even larger among younger Hispanics. In comparison, the uninsured rate among non-Hispanic white adults only dropped from 16 percent to 12 percent during the same period.

Overall, the uninsured rate among all U.S. adults in this age group dropped from 20 percent to 15 percent during this period which began in April 2014 and ended in June.

Michelle Dotty, the report’s main author and the Commonwealth Fund’s vice president for survey research and evaluation, believes this is very encouraging news for Hispanics, who have historically been the group most likely to remain uninsured.

“The potential benefits for these newly insured persons are well established. Past insurance expansions have been associated with reduced mortality, improved mental health, and fewer episodes of bankruptcy,” she writes.

This news comes at a critical time for President Barack Obama, whose party has an uphill battle in the upcoming midterm elections. Latinos will be a key factor in deciding close races in both the House and the Senate.

Despite these improvements, Dotty writes in the report that some challenges remain. The uninsured rate among Latinos whose dominant language is Spanish is at 30 percent, compared to 19 percent for English-speaking Latinos. The report says that this is perhaps due to the lack of awareness of the Obamacare marketplace among non-English speakers.

Dotty believes that hiring more bilingual counselors at Obamacare enrollment sites will help decrease these numbers.

The report also says that the decision by certain states to not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has had a very negative effect on low-income Hispanics. In states that expanded Medicaid, the uninsured rate dropped to 17 percent.

In states that did not expand it, the uninsured rate remains at over 30 percent. Two of these states include Texas and Florida, which combined are home to over 14 million Latinos.

Overall, Dotty writes that the rise of Latinos gaining health insurance under Obamacare will have a valuable impact on the quality of living that the Latino community experiences in the U.S. “The increased access to affordable care will hopefully serve to improve the health and quality of life for millions of Hispanic Americans/Latinos.”

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