Latinos and the Affordable Care Act
If you’ve turned on the television or opened up a newspaper, magazine, or online news site in the past year, chances are, you’ve read something about the Affordable Care Act. As an organization that addresses the health and wellness issues of the Chicano/Latino community, it’s important to analyze the impact the Care Act will have on our gente.
There is definitely much to applaud. Given that nearly 23% of Chicanos and Latinos in California live in poverty, adequate health care insurance has simply been out of reach. Locally, however, Chicanos/Latinos may have fared better under the Healthy San Francisco program. As the federal law goes into effect, funding for Healthy San Francisco will be severely decreased.
The Affordable Care Act offers many health benefits to Chicanos/Latinos. Let’s start with affordability as a result of expanded Medicaid coverage. It is estimated that over 5 million Latinos will have access to health insurance as a result of the Care Act.
Next, given that Latinos face among the highest health disparities nationwide, the elimination of pre-existing conditions addresses a huge barrier to healthcare access. Health issues such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other chronic disorders that have plagued Chicanos/Latinos will finally receive the attention they warrant.
After that there’s the extension of benefits for young adults to remain under their parents’ coverage. For a community that places a high value on familia, this benefit is extremely important. It becomes even more critical as long as unemployment continues to be high and young adults face hurdles to find a job.
There are several other valuable provisions that are welcome components for creating a comprehensive healthcare system that is accessible to the Chicano/Latino community. A focus on prevention, for example, represents a true effort to focus on promoting wellness rather than treating illness.
Despite these important and hard-fought provisions, there is one glaring problem with the Affordable Care Act.
Millions of Latino immigrants will not receive health coverage of any kind. They will pick our food in the fields, paint our houses, clean our kitchens, and watch our children. While others will suggest that Latino immigrants are “illegals,” they offer no reforms for the 20-year waiting currently choking the U.S. immigration process. Nevertheless, we regularly exact a sales tax each time immigrants purchase food, a toll each time they cross a bridge, and an excise tax each time they put gas in their cars. When immigrants are able to obtain jobs, they gladly pay into a Social Security system for which they may never have the opportunity to benefit.
Latino immigrants are members of our families. They are our neighbors, friends, coworkers, and members of our community. Their health, like ours, is not more valuable with a green card. As tax-paying members of our communities and facing the same disparities and barriers to access as the rest of us, their healthcare needs cannot be dismissed or ignored.
As Chicanos/Latinos, we are one community. With each successive generation, we have worked to make things better for our families and communities. The healthcare of immigrants today and tomorrow is part of the challenge of our generation.