Almost 10 months have passed since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made it through the Supreme Court’s scrutiny, paving the way for millions of United States residents to access health care and preventative services.
But while the ACA was ultimately upheld, changes and revisions to the law have occurred over the past year; changes like the approval of a birth control benefit under the no-cost preventative services provision.
ACA has also been important for minority demographics such as Hispanics. More than 50 million reside in the U.S., making up 17 percent of the population. Despite being one of the fastest growing minorities, however, Hispanics continue to suffer from a number of health care disparities. Because of this, the ACA and its impact on future health have been a primary focus for many people of Hispanic descent.
Some parts of the law, such as the preventative services provision, will impact the Hispanic population the most, as almost half of the entire U.S. Hispanic population is under the age of 26.
Only 6 percent of Hispanics are elderly adults compared to 17 percent of non-Hispanic whites, making disease prevention a focus for this young community.
Hispanics and the new ACA
So how will the modified version of the ACA affect Hispanics?
A report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) indicates the primary benefit for Hispanics resides in the ability to gain health care coverage, a process which will be facilitated through health insurance marketplaces and tax credits to make such coverage affordable.
Approximately 32 percent of the non-elderly uninsured population is Hispanic, including more than 12 million adults and 3 million children. Out of all the racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates, and those who are insured are done so primarily through Medicaid.
“Medicaid is a key source of coverage for 13.7 million Hispanics, many of whom would otherwise go uninsured due to their limited access to private coverage and low incomes,” wrote KFF in the report. “However, many Hispanics, especially adults, who have limited eligibility for Medicaid, remain uninsured. Moreover, reflecting historic enrollment barriers, eligible Hispanics are less likely to enroll in Medicaid and CHIP compared to non-Hispanic Whites and Blacks.”
The ACA’s coverage expansion will allow almost all uninsured Hispanics to qualify for Medicare coverage or tax credits under the new expansions. Under the health reform law, KFF notes 57 percent of Hispanics will be below the Medicaid cutoff limit and 38 percent will be eligible for tax credits to help purchase insurance through state marketplaces.
Restrictions are still in place, however, for non-citizen Hispanics, though lawfully present children and pregnant women who are not yet citizens may forego a 5-year waiting period if the state they live in waives the restriction; almost half of states have done so. Documented immigrants will have the ability to purchase health coverage through state marketplaces without any waiting period.
These benefits will not likely eliminate all health coverage disparities for Hispanics under the ACA, however.
“If a state does not expand Medicaid, many low-income uninsured Hispanic adults will not gain a new coverage option and will likely remain uninsured,” said KFF. “Even with the coverage expansions, some non-citizen Hispanics will continue to face eligibility restrictions that limit Medicaid eligibility for many lawfully-present immigrants and exclude undocumented immigrants from health coverage. As such, they will likely continue to experience higher uninsured rates and face challenges obtaining care.”
KFF believes targeted outreach programs, one-on-one applications assistance, language services, and other proven methods for reducing barriers in the Hispanic community are key to ensuring Hispanics get the most benefit from the ACA. But even with expanded coverage, medical professionals will still need to overcome language issues, cultural barriers and a general fear Hispanics have of navigating the health care system if disparities are expected to be reduced further.
Current and continuing ACA benefits for Hispanics
While small portions of the health care law have been redefined, much of it remains as it was originally, and Hispanics can still expect to see the following benefits:
- Public health programs like Medicare and the National Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) have expanded. This will eventually allow the 39 percent uninsured Latino children to receive coverage. Children are also now allowed to remain on their parent’s health policies until the age of 26.
- As of 2011, children were no longer denied coverage due to a chronic illness. By 2014, insurance companies will not be allowed to consider pre-existing conditions as a reason for denying any American coverage. This is a huge benefit for the 1 in 6 senior Latinos suffering from a previously diagnosed medical condition.
- Spanish-speaking and low-income communities have an allocated 11 million dollars from the Care Act to create community health centers with bilingual caregivers. Over a third of Latinos have issues understanding their current doctors, a communication barrier that prevents the highest standard of care.
- Employers are now given tax credits which allow low-income families to purchase affordable health care. Brand-name prescription drugs for low- to moderate-income families are reduced by 50 percent on the plan, and the high cost of prescription drugs should be completely remedied by 2020.
- The island of Puerto Rico has seen an increase in Medicaid funding with the intent to promote health care coverage for the currently uninsured. Increased Medicare funding allows Latinos to choose between low-cost programs in what is called the health care marketplace.
- A new division of public health, the Office of Minority Health, was created to monitor issues regarding health care trends, quality of health, and health issues within the nation’s minority populations.
- New funds have been allocated for research and data collection on health disparities.
Posted on April 11, 2013
by Hope Gillette
[Hope Gillette is an award winning author and novelist. She has been active in the veterinary industry for over 10 years, and her experience extends from exotic animal care to equine sports massage.]