This Fight Isn’t Over

By Steven Lopez, Manager, Health Policy Project, NCLR

Yesterday was a tough day. It’s okay to be angry. We are, too.

The 217-213 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is certainly a hard pill to swallow for those of us who believe that more children and families, not fewer, should have the opportunity for quality, affordable, and accessible health care.

We’re not going to sugarcoat it: what House Republicans passed yesterday puts lives in jeopardy.

It puts in jeopardy the peace of mind of parents who—thanks to the ACA—can take their kids to a pediatrician instead of the emergency room. It puts in jeopardy the working families who are protected from debt and bankruptcy in the event of a medical emergency under the ACA. It puts in jeopardy the life of the cancer survivor who knows she is here today because insurance companies could no longer shut her out under the ACA.

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Medicaid Expansion Would Help More Latino Families Succeed

By Steven Lopez, Manager, Health Policy Project, NCLR
(cross-posted from the “Say Ahhh” blog of Georgetown University Health Policy Institute)

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Steven Lopez of NCLR (left) joined CCF-NCLR Hispanic Children’s Coverage report co-authors at a press conference.

Latinos are the most uninsured population in the country. As the largest civil rights and advocacy organization in the nation, the NCLR works to improve the lives of Hispanic Americans, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much they or their families earn, and equitable access to health care is a top priority. Limited access to health insurance, among other factors, can contribute to worse health outcomes for Latinos. As a population, we are more likely than other racial and ethnic groups to experience chronic and largely preventable diseases. Being uninsured not only impacts physical and mental health it can undermine family financial security. The high uninsured rate experienced by Latinos makes them more vulnerable to economic instability and bankruptcy due to unpaid medical bills.

At this year’s annual NCLR convention in Kansas City, Mo., I led a workshop to address this pressing issue. The workshop, “Saving Lives and Strengthening Economies: Championing the Promise of Medicaid Expansion”, featured CCF Executive Director Joan Alker, Dr. Laura Guerra-Cardus of Children’s Defense Fund-Texas and Jared Nordlund of NCLR’s Department of Civic Engagement.

We discussed how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has improved the lives of many Latinos by connecting them to affordable health care coverage and we outlined how we can make further progress. According to most accounts, more than four million Latinos have gained coverage since the ACA was implemented in 2010. While we’re certainly encouraged by this progress, this is no time to let up. All of us must keep 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.

RNC_postpicsThe original design of the ACA required states to expand their Medicaid programs to serve individuals younger than 65 with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level who meet certain qualifications. The Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA upheld Medicaid expansion, however, it limited the ability of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to enforce it. As a result, states have the option to reject the federal funding available for Medicaid expansion and deny affordable coverage intended for their residents by the ACA.

One consequence of the state-by-state expansion is that a large portion of the population is shut out of an opportunity to obtain affordable coverage because an individual earns too little to qualify for the economic supports to purchase a private plan through the Marketplace, yet too much to qualify for Medicaid under the state’s current eligibility requirements.

In Texas and Florida alone nearly one million 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.

HEALTH child getting ear checked_newsizeThese state decisions impact real people who fall into the coverage gap. It impacts individuals like Irma of San Antonio, 28 who is raising four children. She works as an assistant manager at a pizza chain earning $19,200 a year. She has damaged discs in her neck, making it difficult and painful to raise her arms, which in turn makes it hard to do her job. Sometimes her untreated high blood pressure makes her so dizzy she has to sit to keep from falling or fainting. She has no insurance and fears what would happen to her children if she fell ill. For Irma and others like her who fall in the coverage gap, Medicaid expansion would provide an opportunity to seek critical preventive services that could lower the risk of developing more complex conditions, which are more expensive to treat, later down the road.

Irma and others like her are the reason NCLR has long worked to increase quality, affordable and accessible health insurance care and we’ll continue that fight until everyone has the coverage they need to succeed. 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 to achieve a better life for individuals and families.

Happy 50th, Medicaid!

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 we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Medicaid program, it’s important to pause and remind ourselves what a critical resource this program has been to millions of Americans—especially children, those with disabilities, and low-income families. Today, Medicaid covers 72.2 million Americans, including 33 million children, representing the largest source of health insurance in the country.

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.

Medicaid Yields Long-Term Returns

As various studies have demonstrated, Medicaid is an investment that yields long-term returns beyond the benefit of quality, affordable health insurance coverage and care. One review of the latest research highlights the various ways in which the Medicaid program provides long-term returns for children, including better health status as adults, greater academic achievement, and enhanced economic mobility. For example, children with access to Medicaid have lower incidences of high blood pressure, and report lower rates of hospitalization and emergency room visits in adulthood. Additionally, Medicaid coverage plays a role in greater academic achievement, as those who have benefited were 9.7% less likely to drop out of high school and 5.5% more likely to graduate from college.

Medicaid_Ann_020Medicaid Has Been Good for States

Medicaid expansion is also reducing the costs of uncompensated care for hospitals. Overall, there was a $7.4 billion decrease in uncompensated care costs for hospitals between 2013 and 2014. States implementing Medicaid expansion programs accounted for 68% of that decrease.

Medicaid Is a Critical Resource for Latinos and NCLR Is Working to Expand that Opportunity

At least 15 million Latinos currently receive coverage through the Medicaid program. Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option of expanding eligibility for their Medicaid programs. This would be particularly beneficial for Latinos, who remain the most uninsured group in the country. In states that have expanded their Medicaid programs through the Affordable Care Act, 26% of Latino adults aged 19–64 were uninsured, compared to 46% in states that have not expanded the program. In Florida and Texas alone, two states that have yet to expand, nearly one million Latinos stand to gain coverage.

NCLR will continue to champion the value of quality, affordable coverage—particularly the Medicaid program and its expansion—so that even more Americans, including Latinos, have the opportunity and ability to be healthy.

New Report Reveals Impact of Health Coverage Gap on Texas Latinos

Image: Ray Bodden

Image: Ray Bodden

A new report released today with the San Antonio Hisapnic Chamber of Commerce reveals the negative impact of not expanding Medicaid in Texas, especially the effects on the Latino community which comprises 50 percent of the state’s uninsured population.

The report “Closing the Health Care Coverage Gap in Texas: A Latino Perspective” shows that Texas, home of the nation’s highest percentage of uninsured in 2012, has the potential to help nearly 600,000 Latinos by expanding Medicaid.

“Despite broad public support and the clear economic benefits of Medicaid expansion—including an estimated boost in the state’s economic output by $67.9 billion during fiscal years 2014–2017 and generating an additional 231,000 jobs in Texas by 2016—the state of Texas has chosen to reject federal funding to expand the program and has yet to bring forth a viable alternative to bridge the coverage gap,” said Leticia de la Vara, Senior Strategist, NCLR. “It is unacceptable that our most vulnerable populations and the very workers we count on to stimulate the state’s economic engine lack the critical coverage that they need to remain healthy,” said de la Vara.

“It’s time to take a step in the right direction and expand access to care for more Texans; it’s the right thing to do to move Texas forward,” said Ramiro Cavazos, President and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Expanding access to health care will help create robust communities, allowing opportunities to reduce incidences of persistent health concerns.”

Read the whole report below: