The House Health Care Plan: Bad Medicine for Children and Families

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

Some simple ways to evaluate the new congressional health care plan: when children are covered, they are healthier and do better in school. If they stay healthy, they will have more opportunities as adults. When families are covered, they are better protected from crippling medical debt and homelessness. When more people are covered, our country’s productivity and economic well-being are secured.

The “American Health Care Act” that House congressional leaders proposed last week will drop millions of children and working families from their Medicaid programs. It dismantles health care as we know it, trading in coverage of our nation’s most vulnerable populations for a financial windfall benefiting the wealthy few. And in an analysis released just this week, the Congressional Budget Office gave us our clearest picture yet of the harm the GOP proposal would inflict. The CBO estimates that 14 million people would lose coverage by 2018, 24 million by 2026, and federal Medicaid spending would be reduced by $880 billion over the next 10 years. In short, the historic coverage gains we’ve made over the past few years would be wiped away.

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Make Your Voice Heard – Protect Our Care!

If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, 30 million more Americans, including 6.5 million Latinos, stand to lose their coverage, and millions more will likely be harmed. From California’s Central Valley to Miami, Americans are showing up and speaking out to demand “no repeal without replace”. Now, we’re asking you to join this growing chorus of concerned Americans.

This weekend and in the coming days, as Members of Congress go back to their districts for the President’s Day recess (February 18-26), they need to hear from YOU, their constituents, about what having health coverage means to you and your loved ones and why as a nation we cannot afford to go backwards when it comes to the gains we’ve made.

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Get Covered and Avoid the Penalty!

DiabetesAlert_blogpicBy now you’ve no doubt heard about the many reasons to sign up for health insurance during the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) open enrollment period, which ends January 31. Access to health care services such as a primary care doctor, free preventive services, and peace of mind for you and your family if someone gets sick are all compelling reasons. But there’s another important, practical reason to get covered: those who are not covered by January 31 may have to pay a fine at tax time.

In 2016, the tax penalty for not having health insurance will increase to $695 per individual ($347.50 per child) or 2.5 percent of household income. The amount of the penalty depends on which number is greater. According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, among individuals who were uninsured in early 2015 and eligible to enroll in a marketplace plan, the average penalty in 2016 is $969.

AKA-RegistrationThere is good news, though. Financial help is available for those who have yet to purchase an ACA marketplace plan. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), eight out of 10 people eligible for marketplace coverage are also eligible for financial help.

In 2016, HHS estimates that seven in 10 returning marketplace customers will pay a monthly premium of $75 or less.

In many cases, having health insurance is more affordable than not having insurance and paying the penalty.

In this last week of open enrollment, many uninsured Latino families face a choice: either pay a tax penalty and lack access to critical health care services, or head to the marketplace and shop for a plan that fits their health needs and their budget.

Protect yourself from an unwelcome gift at tax time or debilitating medical bills that could threaten your financial security.

January 31 is the last day to sign up for health coverage at healthcare.gov or cuidadodesalud.gov. If you have questions, bilingual help is available for free by phone or in person. To see what local assistance is available in your area, call (800) 318-2596 or head to localhelp.healthcare.gov. This week make sure to look at your options, choose a health plan that fits your budget, and avoid the penalty!

Affiliate Spotlight: How the NCLR Affiliate Network Contributes to Organizational Success

By David Castillo, Digital Content Manager, NCLR

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Jose Rodriguez (far right) accepts the 2015 NCLR Affiliate of the Year Award in Kansas City.

This month in the Affiliate Spotlight, we’re featuring El Concilio, our Affiliate based in the heart of the San Joaquin Central Valley of California. This Affiliate has worked hard to position themselves as the hub of resources for the Latino community for the past 48 years. With a strong commitment to community service and by establishing lasting relationships with other community organizations, federal, state, and local elected officials, El Concilio constantly works to improve the lives of those in their community.

Their work has not gone unnoticed. Last year, NCLR recognized El Concilio with our 2015 Affiliate of the Year award. The group is also hosting our upcoming NCLR Affiliate Network Peer Exchange, generously supported and made possible by the Ford Motor Company Fund. For El Concilio’s President and CEO, Jose Rodriguez, the Peer Exchange is an opportunity to share with other Affiliates their own best practices and policies that have helped turn this community-based organization into the cherished resource it is.

Rodriguez credits El Concilio's membership in the Affiliate Network with helping the organization grow.

Rodriguez credits El Concilio’s membership in the Affiliate Network with helping the organization grow.

El Concilio’s mission is simple: to improve the quality of life of Latinos in the Central Valley of California. It was founded in 1968 by a group of community activists and clergy who wanted to start an organization that would serve the growing migrant farmworker community. The original scope of Concilio’s work was limited to things like translation services, employment search assistance, and general advocacy. Over the years, however, it has expanded its array of services to include Head Start programs, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, civic engagement, and parent engagement programs, among others. Its humble beginnings included 28 employees and a one million dollar operating budget. Today, El Concilio boasts more than 200 employees, a $10 million operating budget, and it serves more than 25,000 people per year.

Rodriguez attributes much of El Concilio’s success to its membership within the NCLR Affiliate Network. “[NCLR’s Affiliate Network] contributed to our growth and success because we’ve been able to connect with other Affiliates. We’re able to learn from other orgs what they’re doing; how they’re solving some of the issues,” said Rodriguez. “NCLR leads the way by providing information to us and the research they do, which helps us then develop trainings. It has been the ace in our back pocket.”

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One of the areas where El Concilio shines is in its civic engagement work. Recognizing the need in the Central Valley, El Concilio has integrated civic engagement into everything it does. “A lot of times people think civic engagement is political and tend to shy away,” said Rodriguez. “We hope to help folks understand that it’s about advocacy and empowering our clients to be able to advocate for themselves and really educate them about what’s going on.”

At El Concilio, every client who walks in is greeted with the question of whether they’re registered to vote and if they have health care. This ensures that no opportunity is lost for those eligible to register to vote and gain health care. The group has also fostered healthy competition among its staff. Employee buy-in is critical to ensuring success, Rodriguez says. Every year El Concilio sets a goal of registering 2,500 people, and individual program teams set goals for themselves, too. The approach has worked and the organization often far exceeds its original goal.

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El Concilio was also a key player in the fight for the California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights. The group was instrumental in organizing town halls with Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, and these town halls helped her develop the landmark legislation. Rodriguez hopes to share some of the wisdom behind their strategies for relationship- and network-building at the Affiliate Peer Exchange later this month.

It’s this spirit of sharing that Rodriguez finds most beneficial about the Affiliate Network and why he hopes as many Affiliates as possible can attend the convening. “We consider ourselves very fortunate to have received the NCLR Affiliate of the Year Award, because when you look at the Affiliate Network, there are some that are doing an extraordinary amount of work,” said Rodriguez. “Some are bigger than others, but at the end of the day, it’s about getting engaged and putting your best foot forward.”

If you’re an NCLR Affiliate, sign up and register for the NCLR Affiliate Peer Exchange. We’ll see you in Stockton, CA!

Now Is the Time to Build on the ACA’s Gains, Not Dismantle Them

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Last week, President Obama vetoed a bill that would have left millions of Americans without health insurance and access to affordable, quality care. Since the law’s implementation, nearly 18 million people—including four million Latinos—have gained health coverage. Despite those important gains, efforts have continued by Republicans in Congress to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), culminating most recently in the passage of a bill repealing the ACA. Thanks to the President’s veto, the ACA continues to be the law of the land. Rather than focusing on stripping health insurance away from millions of people, Congress should work to build off existing gains and increase the opportunity for even more individuals and families to enjoy the peace of mind and financial security that comes with having insurance.

Despite the historic gains in insurance coverage, Latinos still have the highest uninsured rate in the nation, with one in five lacking health coverage. That is nearly three times the rate of non-Hispanic Whites. Our community stands to gain a great deal under the ACA as organizations like NCLR and our community partners in the NCLR Affiliate Network work to connect Latinos with the information and resources to enroll in health coverage that best meets their needs. At NCLR, we know there is more work to be done to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable health coverage. Now is the time to double down on these efforts, not reverse them.

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As we look to the work ahead, Medicaid expansion—a critical opportunity to further increase the number of insured individuals—remains a key piece of unfinished business under the ACA. While 30 governors have accepted federal funds through the ACA, which allow more low-income people in their states to be eligible for Medicaid, the rest of our nation’s governors have not. These state decisions leave some of our most vulnerable without any opportunity for health coverage, putting them at greater risk of illness and medical debt. If states such as Texas and Florida—which have large Latino populations—expanded Medicaid eligibility, they could make a big difference in reducing the number of uninsured. In fact, if every state expanded Medicaid, nearly 3.7 million Latinos could gain health insurance. We need leaders to step up and do what’s right on behalf of their most vulnerable residents.

Health care is an important issue to many Americans, including Latinos. A recent Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans believe that government should be responsible for ensuring that everyone has health coverage. When Gallup compared the views of Whites and Non-Whites, 65 percent of Non-Whites agreed that the government should be responsible for ensuring health coverage, compared with 44 percent of Whites. The Latino community has experienced historic gains in coverage thanks to the ACA, and we need leaders with the vision and commitment to advance these gains for the well-being and future success of our families and our country.