Protecting and Defending Our Community’s Health

By David Thomsen, Policy Analyst, Health Policy Project, NCLR

All Americans should have the opportunity and ability to achieve good health. While we have made significant progress towards achieving this goal, we know that this progress has been uneven for certain communities. April is National Minority Health Month, and as it comes to a close, we want to take the opportunity to shine a light on the gains we have made, while addressing the remaining work necessary to reduce the health inequities facing our country. While we have a long way to go to reach this goal, many communities—including Latinos—have made significant progress under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Between 2013, when key provisions of the ACA came into effect, and 2015:

  • More than four million Latino adults and 600,000 children gained coverage.
  • The overall Latino uninsured rate declined from one in four in 2013 to one in six in 2015.
  • The uninsured rate for Latino children experienced the largest two-year decline on record (11.5% to 7.5%).

Not only have more people gained coverage, but the quality of that coverage has also improved in the following ways:

  • Individuals with pre-existing conditions can no longer be charged more for coverage, or be locked out of coverage altogether.
  • Each health plan is required to cover essential health benefits like doctors’ visits, hospitalizations, and maternity care.

Section 1557 of the ACA is another testament to the progress we have made, extending critical civil rights protections to health care for the first time. It works to ensure that everyone is treated the same throughout the health care system, regardless of sex, gender identity, race, ethnic background, or disability. Section 1557 also requires that health care providers have qualified bilingual and multilingual translators and interpreters on hand to assist people with limited English proficiency.

This progress is being threatened, as efforts to repeal the ACA and enact drastic cuts to Medicaid continue to jeopardize the opportunity to build upon our gains and improve the law so that it works for more children and families.

The repeal of the ACA, along with extreme cuts to Medicaid, would inflict significant harm on the Latino community, including:

  • Jeopardizing coverage for 18 million Latinos with Medicaid coverage.
  • Jeopardizing coverage for one million Latino adults with ACA marketplace coverage.
  • Repealing the ACA’s essential health benefits, making it harder for members of the Latino community to access vital health care services—including those with coverage.
  • Insurers could once again charge more for consumers with pre-existing conditions, or lock them out of coverage altogether.

While we should recognize the progress we have made in reducing health inequities, National Minority Health Month is also an opportunity to recommit ourselves and our elected officials to the goal of eliminating these inequities altogether. But before we can continue making progress, we must take on the constant threats we face. We can’t afford to see the historic gains we’ve made wiped away, which would put us even further away from achieving our health equity goals.

We must continue to stay loud and your voice is required. Your elected officials need to hear from you about what losing access to health care means, whether it’s through letters to the editor, calls to their offices, or through social media.

Your voice matters. Make it count. Join the campaign to #ProtectAndDefend our health care.

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