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Community

Rate Of Uninsured Hispanics Remains Disproportionately High Despite ACA

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With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, the nationwide number of uninsured Hispanics dropped 10 percentage points from 35 percent to about 25 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.

Despite this substantial gain, Hispanics remain the largest uninsured ethnic group in the country, and according to a survey released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, their share of the uninsured population remains unchanged from pre-ACA levels. Hispanics make up 17 percent of the country but account for 30 percent of the uninsured population. Those figures are even more stark in Bexar County.

"Out of our uninsured population in Bexar County, more than 75 percent are Latino or Hispanic, which is a huge disparity when you think about only 60 percent of our population is Latino or Hispanic in Bexar County. So, if you are Latino or Hispanic in Bexar County, you are more likely than not to be uninsured," said Andrea Guajardo, director of community health for Christus Santa Rosa Health System and a partner with EnrollSA, a coalition of more than 50 health providers trying to get people in San Antonio signed up for the federal health exchange.  

Guajardo and around 30 other people were at San Antonio College's Loftin Student Center, trying to help people navigate the federal program. 

With less than a week remaining for open enrollment on health insurance through the federal health exchange, advocates are working long hours to enroll as many people as possible by the February 15th deadline.

Events like the one on Saturday are important, advocates said, because they meet people where they are. While organizers expected to enroll 100 families, the hope is that it will echo through the community, with those families becoming informal advocates.

Maria Lee is a certified application counselor with Centro Med who had done 15 events like the one Saturday.

"With one individual we are able to reach at least five families, because that family we see today tells a brother, tells a sister, tells a neighbor, tells a coworker," said Lee.

Lee and other enrollment professionals argue word of mouth is especially important in the Latino community, where English may be a second language, or in a situation where a child may be eligible but a parent because they lack legal status. 

Marketing to the Latino community is critical as misunderstandings about prices and eligibility remain pervasive, according to advocates.

But the biggest way to make a dent in that uninsured rate among Latinos is for Texas to expand Medicaid through the ACA, argues San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro, a Democrat.

"Expanding Medicaid would close that gap right away. You have  a lot of Hispanics who are either low-income or poor, so it's tough for people to afford healthcare coverage and pay their monthly bills," Castro pointed out.

At 25 percent, Texas has the largest share of Latinos living in poverty, according to the Pew Research Center. People who would have been eligible for expanded Medicaid aren't eligible for subsidies under the ACA. Texas is one of 25 states that chose not to expand Medicaid, and one of 15 remaining with no plans to do so.

According to figures released last week by federal officials, more than 900,000 Texans had received insurance through the current enrollment period, beating the more than 700,000 people last year. Texas makes up a tenth of the 9.9 million nationally that have signed up.