Community Leaders Learn How the Affordable Care Act Can Create A Better, Healthier America

By Delia Pompa, Senior Vice President, Programs, NCLR

As implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ratchets up it will continue to directly impact the health and well-being of Latino families all across the country.  Hispanics in the United States are disproportionately uninsured, with about 15.6 million lacking health coverage, but the ACA has the potential to change that.

Delia Pompa

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Health care reform is strengthening consumer protections to ensure that millions more Americans will be covered under quality, affordable insurance plans, regardless of preexisting conditions.  The ACA bolsters preventive care services that are critically needed among Latinos, who often don’t have access to-or money for-the simple tests and checkups that can prevent dangerous health problems down the road.  The reform package also invests billions of dollars into community health centers throughout the nation, which serve as a critical source of health care for Latinos, both insured and uninsured.

There is no doubt that the ACA has the potential to drastically reduce and ultimately eliminate the vast health disparities that exist for Latinos in this country.  But in order for it to do so, we must make sure that community health centers and other community-based organizations understand how to take full advantage of the opportunities that the ACA provides them.

This year, at the 2013 National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Health Summit, nearly 200 national Latino health advocates, policymakers, and practitioners convened to discuss the unique challenges in health care coverage and delivery that impact the Latino community.  With implementation approaching sooner than most may think, there are still many questions surrounding the law.  Practitioners and other health professionals were eager to learn how to ensure that Latinos in their communities are informed and well-positioned to benefit from the historic legislation.

Experts in public health, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies, such as the Office of Minority Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offered informative workshops that touched on topics including health disparities, cultural competence, and civil rights protections under the ACA.  For participants at the Summit who serve as a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Hispanics every year, the workshops offered a chance to open a dialogue with and pick the brains of those who will be implementing the law.

Fernando Godinez, Executive Director of the Mexican American Unity Council, an NCLR Affiliate based in San Antonio, said, “As a provider of health services to a diverse, urban community, I found the Summit incredibly helpful in giving me the information, tools, and confidence to help families back home become fully engaged in the opportunities that the Affordable Care Act provides them.”

Walking away from the Summit, it’s clear that it will take a large network of community-based organizations and nonprofits like NCLR working together to ensure that no one is left out of ACA implementation, and to ensure that families are engaged with the health insurance marketplaces and other health coverage options available to them.  But it’s also clear that we have the Obama administration and other federal agencies behind us doing their best to open up access to health care to millions of Americans.  Together, we have an opportunity to use this historic law to create a better, healthier America.

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