By Jennifer Ng’andu, Director, Health and Civil Rights Policy Project, NCLR
March 23 marks the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), an historic law that expands access to health care for millions of Americans—including six million Latinos—by providing desperately needed affordable health insurance options.
As we recognize this anniversary at NCLR, we are filled with hope for the families who have gone without medical care in the past because they couldn’t afford it or found themselves in dire financial situations due to medical bills. Access to health care plays a crucial role in improving the quality of life for everyone, ensuring that workers are contribute to our economy and children go to school ready to learn.
This year is significant because this is where the rubber meets the road. On October 1, the insurance marketplaces will open for business. Uninsured Americans will begin shopping for coverage that will help them access care next year.While many find our companies’ open enrollment season burdensome, we can’t help but be thankful for the security and peace of mind that health insurance provides. For some Americans, this will be their first-ever opportunity to choose a health insurance plan that provides a guaranteed package of critical health services. This is all too true for millions of Hispanics who are far less likely than other Americans to get an offer of health insurance through their employers.
We have supported the ACA as an important step forward in shrinking Hispanics’ uninsurance rate, which is the highest of any group in the nation. Under ACA, we expect the uninsurance rate for Latinos to shrink from nearly one-third of the population to about one-fifth.
But as we prepare for the transformation of our health care system, we must be mindful that there is still much work to do. Even with growing recognition that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, many people still do not understand what the law means for them. Some first-time health insurance purchasers, including nontraditional households and mixed-immigration-status families, may face uncertainty and barriers.
When the ACA was signed into law, the road to full implementation seemed so far away, especially for Americans who needed immediate health insurance solutions. But as we approach our destination—and relish the fact that the best parts of the law are about to go into effect—we must remember that for this system to work at its best, it must have an open enrollment period that reaches every single American family.