Skip to main content.

What does health reform’s uncertain future mean for Latinos left out of the health care system?

What does health reform’s uncertain future mean for Latinos left out of the health care system?

Picture of Liliana Sunn
[Photo by Robert Bejil via Flickr.]

In this year of constant changes, frequent executive orders, extreme division between Democrats and Republicans, and growing animosity among voters, the uncertainty of repealing ACA is a scary and stressful scenario to the millions who are reaping the benefits of health insurance. But what about those who didn’t have the opportunity to purchase insurance or just can’t do it because of legal or economic reasons? What do changes to the ACA mean for them? Will politicians come together to expand coverage, or will the project of health reform be dramatically scaled back?

One out of three individuals enrolled in California is Hispanic, according to Covered California. The Spanish-language outreach effort — massive health fairs, commercials on radio, TV, social media and other outlets — has helped increased the number of enrollees. A recent report from UCLA Center for health policy research illustrates the role of the ACA in reducing the ranks of the uninsured. Even so, not everyone can afford insurance or access care. Some don’t have the proper documentation, and many others don’t understand how to navigate the health care system, or don’t understand the language.

For some Latinos, that can lead to desperate situations: Remaining sick for years, consulting fake doctors or pharmacists, traveling abroad to purchase medicine, using alternative remedies, and for some, dying without help. When such patients do go to the emergency room as a last resort, they can be left with the burden of astronomical hospital bills that they’ll never be able to pay.

How will the Republicans’ pledge to repeal and replace the ACA change the plight of Latinos who struggle to afford and access health care?

This report, part of my 2017 California Fellowship project, will air on “Nuestra Voz en la Salud y Educacion” at KPFK.org. I’ll report on the benefits the ACA has brought to the Hispanic population, and at the same time, I’ll report on how many still lack insurance and the struggles that entails. I’ll be speaking to local government representatives, advocacy groups, insured and uninsured individuals, insurance companies, and others. All the while, I’ll be tracking new legislation, executive orders, and proposed changes to Medicaid.

My time spent as an enrollment counselor with Covered California in the past gave me the opportunity to see up close how the enrollment process worked for many Hispanics and other minority groups. I witnessed the frustration that came with not knowing what to do, not knowing what questions to ask, and the frequent desperation of those suffering from chronic illnesses and unable to get medical assistance.

The lack of information and misunderstandings of how the health insurance market works were common problems. Helping individuals navigate the system, and choose a plan helped me understand as a producer and host the concerns of those in need of services and guidance. It’s a crucial perspective that will inform my reporting in the months to come.

[Photo by Robert Bejil via Flickr.]

Comments

Picture of

I'm proud of the progress California made to bring health equity to all Californians. California implemented the ACA better than most states and achieved a record-low for uninsured (7.1%) in 2017. This happened through the collective effort of many to bring the message and resources to the people who would most benefit from the ACA. I was proud to be involved in the establishment of Covered California. As a career health insurance professional (nearly 30 years), I provided a perspective most in public health did not have. Reaching the chronically uninsured is not easy as they are used to living without coverage and a "culture of coping". Helping connect Latinos to coverage is also challenging as we are not a homogenous people. We have different dialects, politics and cultures... but share a common human need to protect our health and loved ones. As a Mexican-American whose parents and grandparents are also US-born, my experience may be different than a more recent immigrant. I grew up without coverage for most of my youth. My father worked hard but, like most self-employed folks, did not have coverage. I understand what families have to do without coverage and why coverage is hard to understand and access. I did not have coverage until I got my first full time job, ironically in health insurance. I spent many years meeting with individuals and employees face to face.... explaining how to get covered and why it costs so much. I also witnessed many sad stories of people who could not get covered due to affordability or pre-existing conditions (pre-ACA). It would be a shame to go back.

Our progress is at risk if CA is forced to ration or roll back our resources and return to pre-ACA market rules and affordability gaps. I am a proud advocate for the uninsured and small business; helping understand their options and lobbying for improving access to affordable coverage for all.

Picture of

Obamacare is profit care the only solution for the American healthcare system is Socialize medicine. We need to take the Insurance companies out of Healthcare. We need to cut Adminstrative cost and we need to get back making Doctors General practice and stop specializing . We need to bring the doctors back into home. We also must contain Big Pharma. Bring down the cost of medicine. Health professionals must advocate for Socialize medicine.

Leave A Comment

Announcements

Got a great idea for an ambitious reporting project on a California health issue?  Let us fund it.  Apply now for the 2019 California Fellowship, which provides $1,000 reporting grants and six months of expert mentoring to 20 journalists, plus community engagement grants of up to $2,000, plus specialized mentoring, to five.

CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY

Follow Us

Facebook


Twitter

CHJ Icon
ReportingHealth