What the Affordable Care Act Means for Latinos
At MomsRising.org, we’re starting to hear how the Affordable Care Act has made a real difference for Latino families. That’s why there is no turning back for Latina moms like Tracy Muñoz of Norfolk, Virginia.
“My 21-year-old is taking a year off from school,” she wrote MomsRising. “He is having to pay back school loans from the first year. He works a full-time job with a small business. He cannot afford health insurance on his own, and we cannot afford to pay for it for him. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we were able to add him onto my company’s policy. We were also able to stave off any premium increases, again, thanks to ACA. Health care reform has given us a sense of security that we all needed at a time when I have not had a pay increase in 2 years.”
For Latina mothers with special needs children, or as the insurance companies saw them, “high-risk kids with pre-existing conditions,” the one-year anniversary of ACA’s passage is especially significant.
“I am the mother of a beautiful 6-year-old girl named Paloma,” wrote Magdalena Clark of Houston, Texas. “Paloma was diagnosed with severe Autism when she was 2-years-old.
“We recently found out that with the new Health Care Reform (Affordable Care Act) we are finally able to provide our daughter with the (therapy) that she desperately needs. We are so happy. It’s been the first great news we have received in these past 4 years.”
And there are so many stories like hers. My family, too, has been forced into bankruptcy in an attempt to pay for medical bills.
Growing up in a Cuban and Puerto Rican household in Miami in the ‘80s, I do not remember a time in which my hardworking parents did not struggle to pay bills. Oftentimes, we went without electricity or phone service due to inability to pay.
Like so many families in America, we were pushed to bankruptcy when my parents were unable to pay for overdue medical bills related to the premature birth of my baby sister, Nelsy. I remember attending college in the late ‘90s and working three jobs to help put myself through school. My parents were not allowed to own a credit card due to the bankruptcy.
Healthcare reform helps us in more ways than one. Even as Latinos comprised a third of the U.S. uninsured population in 2009 (1), an additional 1.4 million Latinos—nearly 13 million total—were covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, an increase of 12.1% from 2008. The Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law by President Obama a year ago, promises to expand coverage to even more families so that they won’t be placed into a bind like my parents. Thanks to the passage of ACA, in 2014 all U.S. citizens who earn 133% above the poverty line (currently about $29,000 for a family of four) will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. That means that a family of four earning up to about $88,000 a year will qualify for subsidies to buy health insurance. (2)
In addition, the ACA already assures all parents that their children may remain on their company-sponsored health insurance until they are 26. ACA also offers tax breaks to small businesses to insure their workers, and ends a discriminatory policy that allowed insurance companies to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions like diabetes and asthma – all which disproportionately affect Hispanics and their children. (3)
While more needs to be done to address the health care needs of immigrants, including permanent resident Latinos who are not U.S. citizens, the ACA is definitely a step in the right direction. As a mom of two, I am grateful to at least have the peace of mind that my children won’t be kicked off our policy when they graduate from high school, or God forbid, get sick. For that, I celebrate ACA’s one-year anniversary.
1.) National Council of La Raza calculation using U.S. Census Bureau, “Current Population Survey (CPS) Table Creator,” 2010 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstc/cps_table_creator.html (accessed September 2010). The CPS data estimate the number of people who were uninsured for the full year and may differ slightly from the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey data, which measure uninsurance at a point in time.