Hispanic Unity of Florida helps Latinos from Coverage to Care

The NCLR Affiliate educates our community on obtaining and using health insurance

What is the main concern Hispanic Unity of Florida hears from your community members regarding the Affordable Care Act?

Hispanic Unity counselors and navigators have heard a variety of concerns regarding the Affordable Care Act. Most of the time, the concern is about the tax penalty for not having health insurance. Consumers know that if they do not enroll for coverage they may have to pay a fee when they file their taxes. The per-person charge in 2016 will jump to $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, topping out at $2,085 per family. The income-based penalty rises to 2.5 percent of the annual income.

Another concern we have heard in the community regarding the Affordable Care Act is the lack of knowledge of the health insurance system. Most people have difficulty understanding complex terms like deductible, coinsurance, or tax credits. It is fairly understandable because this program is new for almost everybody. But, thanks to our trained navigators and certified application counselors, we can help clarify these terms to make them more understandable to our clients.

Lastly, a concern particularly true in Florida is the lack of eligibility due to low income. We hear from consumers who earn less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level that they do not understand how it is that they do not qualify for tax credits if their income is low.

How do navigators and others in your organization talk to people in your community about the value of health insurance, even for those who consider themselves healthy?

We emphasize that there are many options available no matter what their health situation is. There are plans for the healthier population while there are also plans for those who use health care services more often.

The best thing about this program is that it is not allowed to refuse coverage to anyone based on pre-existing conditions. Sick or not, these plans can work for anybody.

We also like to remind them that these plans can help people save money on out-of-pocket costs in case of a dire emergency. Our navigators inform consumers about the importance of health insurance by explaining different scenarios that could happen unexpectedly, such as getting sick or getting into an accident. We also explain the difference in costs between having insurance and not having insurance when going to the emergency room. It is important to make them understand that prevention is key. The same way they cover their cars and their homes in case of an accident and or a natural disaster, they must make their health coverage a priority. We help them understand that staying healthy to enjoy their other assets makes more sense.

Is cost a concern? Do people understand that they most likely qualify for financial assistance to enroll in a health plan? How do you help them with this concern?

Yes, premium cost is a top concern for health insurance shoppers. We help consumers understand that financial assistance is available for those who qualify. We make sure they understand that the amount of financial assistance they receive depends on income, household size, and many other factors. When we help consumers apply for coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace, we help them find out whether they qualify for a “premium tax credit” that lowers the premium, which is the monthly amount they will have to pay to their insurance carrier.

However, we know that not everybody will qualify and some might fall into what is called the “coverage gap.” This is one of the most disconcerting barriers some of our clients ultimately face.

Are you still seeing most people come in to get covered for the first time, or are more coming in for help to re-enroll?

There is a mix of those who want to enroll for the first time and people who want to renew their current plan. There are also others who had one plan but want to switch to another plan for a variety of reasons. Also, there are people who enroll for the first time because they had a situation change such as increased income or a change in their family configuration. Most people do come to re-enroll in the program. We would say it is about 60 percent of people are re-enrolling, while 40 percent are enrolling for the first time.

700x350_aca-open-enrollment-12212015
The current open enrollment period ends on January 31. Find out how you can get covered!

Does Hispanic Unity of Florida offer assistance to people on how to utilize their ACA insurance once they have it?

Hispanic Unity of Florida understands people may be overwhelmed by their choices in the Marketplace. After our counselors have helped clients choose a plan that meets their specific family needs, we also help understand how to use their coverage to get the care they need. Hispanic Unity of Florida offers all sorts of assistance regarding health plans. We have knowledge of how to use the insurance plans, how to look for doctors and prescription drugs that are covered in their plan, and other inquiries about their designated health insurance company.

After their application, we help consumers understand key terms, such as copayments, deductibles, and out-of-pocket limits. Consumers always leave better informed about the Marketplace and the insurance company they applied with. If consumers have any concerns or questions regarding their health coverage, they know that they can come back to see an assister to help them get the coverage that is right for them and help them move from coverage to care.

Florida still has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the United States. Are you seeing more community members coming in to get their children covered? Do parents understand that even if they do not qualify, they can still enroll their citizen children in coverage?

We always explain the importance of having all the family covered. No one should be left behind. We make sure our participants understand that even when they are not qualified for coverage, we can submit the application and let the Marketplace send the information to Florida KidCare (CHIP) or Medicaid to confirm their eligibility and help them.

We also explain that when it comes to enrolling children in health plans, once an application is submitted, the Health Insurance Marketplace will send their information to a designated health company (Medicaid or CHIP) so they can make a final determination. We also explain to our clients that children who do not qualify for either Medicaid or CHIP can enroll in a plan with their parents until the age of 26.

Find out more about Hispanic Unity of Florida on Facebook and Twitter.

Get Ready to Get Covered!

Four million Latinos have purchased health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since the law’s implementation. Join them by signing up for health coverage so you, too, can get quality affordable health coverage.

IMG_1169This Sunday, November 1 is the start of the third ACA open enrollment period. Sign up for coverage by January 31, 2016 by calling 1-800-318-2596 or visiting www.healthcare.gov or www.cuidadodesalud.gov. Whether you are renewing coverage or getting health insurance for the first time, take the time now to learn about your options and the financial help that may be available.

Here’s how you can get ready to get covered:

  1. Understand your options and choose the health plan that best meets your needs. Check out the benefits and costs of available plans at healthcare.gov or www.cuidadodesalud.gov. You can also find out if you and your children are eligible for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
  1. Gather key documents and information before you apply. Several documents—such as a permanent resident card (or green card), a reentry permit or an employment authorization card—can be used to prove immigration status on the health application.
  1. Determine who in your household is applying for coverage. Have information ready for each person, including everyone’s home and mailing addresses. Make a general estimate of your income for the coming year to get an idea of the savings for which you might qualify.
  1. Get one-on-one help. Free local, in-person assistance is available to answer your questions and help you enroll in a health plan. To find out where you can get assistance in your area, call 1-800-318-2596 or visit healthcare.gov.
  1. If you do not have an eligible immigration status and do not qualify for coverage, you can apply on behalf of your eligible dependents. An ineligible parent, for example, can apply on behalf of an eligible child.

Enroll in a health plan by January 31, 2016. Share this information with your family and friends and encourage them to get covered, too! Be prepared and understand your options so you can find the best health care plan for you and your loved ones.

For more information, please visit www.nclr.org/issues/Health/coverage-and-care. NCLR will continue bringing you news and updates on getting covered.

Millions of Latinos Can Keep Their Health Coverage

HEALTH-child-getting-ear-checked_1

The Affordable Care Act survived the latest, and hopefully final, attack today with a highly favorable decision from the Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of the federal and state market exchanges where Americans are able to purchase health insurance. In a 6-3 ruling, the Court said that all people who buy health coverage through federal or state exchanges should receive premium tax-credit subsidies if they meet eligibility requirements.

In the case of King v. Burwell, the plaintiffs had challenged the law, claiming that the provision was written in a way that only extended the tax credits and cost-sharing reductions to enrollees in states that had established their own exchanges. In the 34 states that have not set up their own exchanges, including Texas and Florida, two states with large numbers of Latino voters and families, about nine million people risked losing their subsidies.

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, more than four million Latinos have obtained quality, affordable health care. Today’s ruling now ensures we can move forward with the hard work of reaching the millions more who remain eligible for coverage.

“Today’s decision is a victory for the health and safety of our country. It means that millions of Americans, including Latinos, will continue receiving critical financial help to purchase a quality, affordable plan through the insurance marketplace,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía in a statement. “But the job is not done and our work continues, since one in four Latinos is still uninsured. We know that the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act is something our community needs and supports.”

We stand with other civil rights and health equity organizations in affirming the critical role the ACA has played in improving the lives of millions of Americans, including millions of Latinos.

“Given today’s decision, it’s time to stop trying to repeal or weaken the law and instead start working on substantively building on the gains we’ve made. There remain millions more eligible people waiting to benefit, including limited-English-proficient individuals and those from mixed-immigrant-status households,” said Murguía.

The Affordable Care Act Turns Five

Five years ago today, the country experienced a pivotal moment when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law. Since passage and subsequent implementation, millions of Americans have started to enjoy its benefits, including Latinos. While the increase in Americans with quality, affordable health coverage should be celebrated, it’s important to highlight the other ways the law is benefiting millions of Americans. To mark the ACA’s fifth birthday, here are five ways the law is benefiting the Latino community.

1. Investing in prevention

  • 8.8 million: The number of Latinos with private insurance who now have access to expanded preventive services with no cost-sharing, including mammograms for women, well-child visits, and flu shots for all children and adults.
  • 9 million: How many Latina women with private health insurance now have guaranteed access to women’s preventive services without cost-sharing, including breastfeeding support and counseling, screenings for cervical cancer, and prenatal care.

2. Enhancing quality

  • 10: The number of essential health benefit categories private marketplace plans must cover, including recommended preventive services, prescription drugs, and mental health and substance use disorder services.

16646418838_da4c97834e_o

3. Creating new coverage opportunities for young adults

  • 913,000: Latino adults ages 19–26 who would have been uninsured, including 375,000 women, but now have coverage either on their own plan or a parent’s employer-sponsored plan.

4. Improving consumer protections

  • 11.8 million: The number of Hispanics, including 4.4 million Latinas, who no longer have lifetime or annual limits on their health insurance coverage. And Section 1557, a civil rights provision of the law, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and other statuses.

5. There’s room to grow to ensure all who are eligible are able to experience the full benefit of the law

  • 1 million: The number of low-income Latinos who stand to gain coverage if states like Florida and Texas expand Medicaid eligibility.

There are many other ways the Affordable Care Act is benefiting Latinos and as implementation continues, we’ll see even more Americans benefitting. Of course, this is notwithstanding congressional attempts to repeal the law. It will take all of us to ensure Republican efforts to undermine the law are not realized. We know what’s at stake for millions of Americans, including Latinos, and NCLR will continue working to protect and advance the gains that have been made to ensure the potential of the law is fulfilled.

We’re Committed to Protecting Health Care

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has the potential to significantly reduce the number of uninsured Latinos in the United States, and NCLR has worked to ensure that the benefits of the law reach as many eligible individuals as possible. As an organization that represents the most uninsured community in the country, NCLR has long advocated for quality, affordable, and accessible health insurance and care for all Americans. It is why we became deeply involved in the fight to enact the Affordable Care Act. While it is not perfect, it is the first meaningful effort in nearly 50 years to address the long-standing national health care gap and at long last bring quality health care to millions of families in the U.S., including Latinos.

Alejandra Gepp, Director of the NCLR Institute of Hispanic Health, and Steven Lopez, Senior Health Policy Analyst outside the Supreme Court this Wedensday.

Alejandra Gepp, Director of the NCLR Institute of Hispanic Health, and Steven Lopez, Senior Health Policy Analyst outside the Supreme Court this Wedensday.

Earlier this week, we continued that fight when we joined numerous organizations on the steps of the Supreme Court to affirm our support for the ACA as the Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell. The case challenges a core component of the ACA, endangering the financial assistance that the law provides for millions of low- and middle-income Americans who live in states that did not set up their own health insurance marketplaces.

The outcome of King v. Burwell is critical. According to a widely referenced report by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, about 9.3 million people in 34 federally facilitated marketplace states are at risk of losing premium tax credits if the Court rules in favor of King. About 8.2 million people are projected to become uninsured. Such a decision by the Supreme Court would be a step backward for all Americans, including Latinos, stripping away the gains we have made in providing quality, affordable coverage to so many hardworking families.

What does this mean for Latinos?

Outside the Supreme Court, NCLR talked with a number of news outlets. One key question we fielded was, “What’s at stake for the Latino community?” According to a follow-up report by the Urban Institute, of the 9.3 million people who would lose tax credits if the Court ruled in favor of King, about 1.5 million are Hispanic and about 1.2 million would become uninsured as a result.

ACA_SCOTUS1Given that Latinos are less likely than other workers to have access to employer-sponsored health insurance—only 38.3 percent of Latinos are covered by employer-based plans—the coverage options offered by the ACA are critical to filling that gap. During the first two open enrollment periods, NCLR and its Affiliate Network, along with other key partners, worked to enroll Latinos across the country. There is still work to be done, but there is no question that these collective efforts have increased the number of insured Latinos.

While the country awaits the Supreme Court’s decision in June, remember that nothing has changed. Tax credits remain intact and coverage purchased via the marketplace remains valid. It’s important for individuals to continue paying their premiums. As a community that has long strived for meaningful coverage opportunities, Latinos, like so many Americans, have much to gain from the ACA. Our community can ill afford—literally and figuratively—attempts to thwart those opportunities.