The third open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is well underway. While Latinos still lag behind other groups when it comes health coverage, we are seeing signs of progress as more than four million Latinos have gained coverage since the law was implemented. We’re working to build off those gains and ensure the benefits of the law reach as many in our community as possible. To talk about these efforts, and how we can get more Latinos insured, NCLR hosted a national conference call with our Affiliate Network featuring U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell. The call also focused on the overall impact of the ACA on the Latino community.
You can listen to the entire call below:
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The following are remarks as prepared for delivery, which NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía made at the opening of the call.
Good afternoon, buenas tardes, and thank you all for joining today’s call.
Before I begin, I want to thank the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, for joining us today to discuss a very important and timely issue for our community: the Affordable Care Act and its impact on the Latino community. We’re delighted to have you.
Also joining me are two members of my health team, Rita Carreon, Deputy Vice President of Health, and Steven Lopez, Manager of NCLR’s Health Policy Project.
As the largest civil rights and advocacy organization in the nation working to improve the lives of Hispanic Americans, the National Council of La Raza represents the most uninsured population in the country.
As part of our larger mission to reduce disparities and advance equity, NCLR has long worked to increase the number of individuals with affordable and accessible quality health insurance coverage and care.
As all of us know, the value of health insurance goes beyond better health. We know having access to the basic necessity of good health care improves the lives of people overall. It provides greater financial and social stability to families. It also markedly improves the educational prospects and chances for success later on in life for children. In short, health care is a critical building block of a better life.
All these reasons are why NCLR became deeply involved to make the ACA a reality.
From working with Congress to shape the bill and supporting its eventual passage to commenting during the regulatory period and now executing outreach and enrollment efforts to make sure the promise of the ACA reaches as many Americans as possible, NCLR has been engaged from soup to nuts.
More than four million Latinos have gained coverage since the ACA was implemented in 2010. While we’re certainly encouraged by this progress, we know now is not the time to let up. All of us must keep on working together to bring down the still too-high uninsured rates for Latinos, who are now one in six Americans, one in four Americans under 18, and will represent nearly one-third of the U.S. workforce by 2050.
For NCLR, this has involved—and will continue to involve—an extensive effort across our organization to engage, educate, and enroll Latinos across the country. Through our comprehensive ACA campaign, we will continue to leverage NCLR policy, programs, and communications work and the tools available to us to address enrollment barriers facing Latino and immigrant communities, provide culturally and linguistically appropriate education and outreach materials, and work through the media—particularly Spanish-language media—to promote ACA enrollment and get accurate information out to the community.
And we will continue to emphasize that while these new insurance options are critically important, the benefits of the ACA go beyond that. With new consumer protections and the availability of free preventive services, the ACA has enhanced the value of insurance and health care for millions of Americans.
And I’m proud to say that so many of our Affiliate Network of nearly 300 community organizations in 41 states, DC, and Puerto Rico have been part of this effort.
Our Affiliates represent some of the largest and most effective health care providers to our community in the nation. In fact, one of every two of our Affiliates is involved in health-related work. These are the organizations on the front lines in our community and they are the best possible vehicles to reach Hispanics in this country.
Several of these organizations in places like Texas, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Illinois, and right here in D.C. have been involved in ACA outreach and enrollment efforts, providing in-person enrollment assistance, the type of face-to-face resource our community values and has proven effective in getting our families enrolled.
And not only are they providing assistance in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner, they are also working with and reaching some of the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities in our country.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country to meet with our Affiliates and hear directly from them on a range of issues impacting the community, including the ACA.
It’s clear that they have their finger on the pulse of how the law is playing out and we will continue to share this insight with HHS as the agency works to create as optimal a consumer experience as possible for all who are eligible.
As we look at the current open enrollment period and further down the road ahead, we know that the Latino community will continue to be key to the success of the ACA.
All current and future outreach and enrollment strategies must have Hispanics in mind, particularly those who are limited English proficient and those who live in mixed-status households.
Before I close, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how critically important Medicaid expansion is for our community.
It’s shameful and inexcusable that millions of low-income Americans, including Latinos, are shut out of an opportunity for meaningful coverage because state leaders have refused to do what’s right for their most vulnerable residents and accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid.
NCLR has been engaged in advocacy efforts in Texas and Florida in particular and we will continue our push for expansion.
In closing, we know the ACA holds great promise for all Americans, including Latinos, and NCLR looks forward to the opportunities ahead to build on the gains and increase the number of individuals who get covered, stay covered, and effectively use that coverage.
And now it is my pleasure to introduce HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Secretary Burwell, thank you for joining us today and for your leadership. We value the strong partnership we have had with you and your team both as it relates to the ACA, as well as other initiatives to advance a shared goal of improving the health of the Latino community and this great nation.
Open enrollment for ACA ends January 31, 2016, but for those wanting coverage that begins on January 1, you’ll need to enroll by December 15, 2015. Go to healthcare.gov or cuidadodesalud.gov to get started!