Fears of deportation, language barriers and just plain confusion. Those are a few of the reasons only 10% of those who have enrolled in the 37 states served by healthcare.gov are Latino.
“I didn’t understand about the deductibles and how to choose a plan," said Norma Santaolalla in this piece in The Daily Beast. She cleans houses and her husband Rodolfo is a handyman. She says they have always worked but never had health insurance.
And when they tried to go online to apply for coverage under the health care law, they said they found it too confusing.
Fifty-six percent of noncitizen immigrants in the United States are Latino. Many of them are in the country illegally and are not eligible to purchase health insurance through the health exchanges, even if they can afford to pay.
Hispanics represent about a third of the nation’s uninsured, and foreign-born Hispanics are more than twice as likely to be uninsured as are U.S.-born Hispanics, according to Census data compiled by the Pew Research Center.
Nearly a third of the Affordable Care Act's media budget targets Hispanics, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, and they have also set up community drop-in sites where people can receive personal assistance.
The number of Latinos with health-care coverage has increased 5.3% since the federal law took effect, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
When some have tried to enroll, they found the ACA website couldn’t verify their identify. So they might have to mail in additional documents, including an employment authorization card, that makes many nervous.
There reportedly is widespread fear in the Latino community that those who are eligible for coverage might endanger others in their family who are undocumented, even though President Obama and other federal officials have said repeatedly that no information on a health law application will be used for deportation purposes.
“You don’t want to be the family member that because you signed up for coverage you’re getting your grandmother, your uncle or your parent deported,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the group Health Access California, a healthcare consumer group.
Thee is also of course the issue of finite dollars, already stretched too far, says Alejandra Gepp, associate director of the Institute for Hispanic Health at the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.
“Let’s say you’re making $10 an hour. After taxes, you’re left with probably a check of no more than $400 a week at most,” Gepp said to The Washington Post. “If you have to pay $200 in health insurance each month, many decide not to purchase it.”
The NCLR has also been hosting community events where Latinos can get free information and assistance for health care enrollment.
“We urge the community to not delay," said Steven Lopez, Manager, NCLR Health Policy Project. "There are only a few days left to obtain quality and affordable coverage through the marketplace and avoid facing a penalty if not enrolled by the February 15 deadline.”
For those who work with the Latino community, they say because so many in it have been uninsured for so long, it’s not surprising it's taking so long to reach them.