Thankful for Healthy Friends and Family

FMLA_LatinoFamily_2015During this time of the year, many gather with family and friends and spend quality time over a nice meal, conversation, and maybe the search for a great bargain. It’s also a time when folks reflect on the blessings of the past year, including the health and well-being of loved ones.

We know that taking care of our loved ones is extremely important and at NCLR we continue our work to ensure families across the country have every opportunity to lead a healthy life, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much they earn. One of the ways we are doing this is by connecting as many individuals and families as possible with health insurance and the security it can provide. Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010, 17.6 million Americans, including four million Latinos, have gained quality, affordable health coverage.

Thanks to the law, more people have the chance to live healthy and happy lives. For example, young adults can remain insured through their parents’ health plan and people with preexisting conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and cancer can no longer be denied health coverage. In addition, more adults and children in working families can sign up for free and low-cost insurance through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Not only does the ACA increase opportunities for health coverage, the law improves the quality of that coverage, providing 72 preventive services for free. These services include screenings for chronic diseases and conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Access to preventive services can make sure certain health conditions don’t occur in the first place or lower the risk that they do.

So as we spend time with and give thanks for our family and friends, we are reminded that access to health insurance is an important part of taking care of ourselves and our loved ones and at NCLR we are committed to shaping a healthier and brighter future us all.

Underwater Dreams Inspire Latino Youth

Lorenzo Santillan, a student featured in the documentary Underwater Dreams, was a featured guest at NCLR’s Family STEM Day this month. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) was the setting for the daylong event and provided an opportunity to bring an awareness of the STEM field for parents and their children. More than 300 middle and high school students participated, along with their parents. Dr. Raul Reyna, Executive Director of UTSA’s Prefreshman Engineering Program, opened the event and introduced keynote speaker Santillan.

In his keynote speech, Santillan spoke about the barriers he and his fellow students had to overcome to be successful in school and beyond. He praised his family and teachers who helped him along the way to get to where he is now as an enterprenuer and a speaker.

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After the keynote address the students participated in several STEM-related breakout sessions, presented by UTSA students and professors. Many of the presentations featured robotics programs from several local science academies. These hands-on sessions allowed the participants to interact with people directly involved in the STEM field.

After the students participated in two rotations of STEM activities they were treated to a special screening of Underwater Dreams. The screening was followed by a question and answer session with Santillan, which included questions about how he became interested in robotics and other challenges he faced during the competition, which is the subject of the documentary. Afterward, students had an opportunity to meet and speak with Santillan.

We thank Lorenzo Santillan, Dr. Reyna, and the entire UTSA Engineering Department for hosting this wonderful family event!

To learn more about NCLR’s youth STEM work, go to

How to Make the ACA Work for Latino Communities

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:

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 16, 2016, but for those wanting coverage that begins on January 1, you’ll need to enroll by December 31, 2015. Go to or to get started!

Know Your Risk for Diabetes

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, a reminder to take a moment from our busy lives and assess our health and well-being. Experts say at least one-quarter of the 30 million people in the United States—more than seven million—who have diabetes simply don’t know they have this serious disease. When symptoms are silent, we must think about our risk factors and protect our health.

How can you learn whether you or someone you love is at risk for diabetes? The best approach is to have a clear and thorough discussion with your doctor, but here are some factors to consider:

  1. Prediabetes: If a health care provider has said you have prediabetes, it doesn’t mean you will automatically develop diabetes. But you should learn what steps to take—such as losing weight or exercising more—to avoid diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) offers detailed information about prediabetes in English and Spanish.
  2. Family history: If one of your parents, siblings, or grandparents has heart disease or diabetes, then you have a higher risk of developing diabetes. It is important to know your family’s medical history so you can share it with your doctor.
  3. Race/Ethnicity: Some racial and ethnic groups have a greater risk of diabetes. According to the ADA, the rate of diabetes among Latinos is almost double that of non-Latino Whites
  4. Age, weight, and activity level: As we get older, our risk for certain health conditions—including diabetes—goes up. Your weight and the amount of exercise you get are critical factors in determining diabetes risk. Take a quick online test; it is also available in Spanish.
  5. Diet and excessive sugar: Cutting back on sugary beverages (see below), limiting portion sizes, and filling half your plate with fruit and vegetables are all healthy choices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has additional healthy tips and you can also learn from NCLR’s nutrition and wellness information.

Making Sure California’s Retirement Plan Serves Latinos Effectively


California Treasurer John Chiang speaks to NCLR Affiliates at Neighborhood Housing Partnership Services.

At the NCLR 2015 California Fall Regional Convening in Rancho Cucamonga, California, earlier this month, California State Treasurer John Chiang spoke to our Affiliate Network about the California Secure Choice retirement plan and how this program can help millions of Latinos in the state prepare for a financially secure retirement.

Close to 50 Affiliate organizations from across the state participated in the two-day convening, hosted by our Affiliate, Neighborhood Housing Partnership Services. There they engaged in peer-to-peer learning, networking, and heard from NCLR staff and partners for issue briefings on a number of policy topics.

Currently, only 29 percent of Latinos in California have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, making the Secure Choice individual retirement accounts (IRAs) an important policy for this segment of the American workforce. California Secure Choice, which was passed and enacted in 2012, would provide IRAs for workers whose employers do not offer a retirement plan. NCLR’s research on the state of Latino retirement, Enhancing Latino Retirement Readiness in California, finds that certain plan features could remove barriers many Latino workers face today in preparing for retirement, including automatic payroll contributions, the ability to keep the account when an employee changes jobs, and the plan’s wide reach—workers at companies with just five or more employees would be automatically enrolled in the plan.

Treasurer Chiang noted that the Secure Choice board is conducting research and engaging stakeholders across the state, including employers and community members, on the plan’s design specifics. NCLR will continue to follow these developments and keep Affiliates updated on opportunities to provide their perspective to help ensure implementation of Secure Choice in California will maximize Latino participation.