Latino Healthcare Coverage Improves Under Obamacare

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Healthcare, Opinion, Politics

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Published on October 17, 2014 with No Comments

Data source:  The Commonwealth Fund  Affordable Care Act Tracking Surveys.

Data source: The Commonwealth Fund
Affordable Care Act Tracking Surveys.

By Ralph E. Stone

October 17, 2014

The Patient Protection Act and the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) seems to be working.   Admittedly, this is not a universal view.  But as of  September 18, 2014, 7.3 million are now enrolled.  This is quite an achievement considering the computer glitches encountered by consumers along the way.  Individuals of Hispanic American or Latino origin, one group of Americans at high risk of having no health insurance, are making remarkable gains under ObamaCare.  This group historically was more likely to lack health insurance than any other ethnic or racial group.

A recent Commonwealth Fund survey shows that at the end of the first open-enrollment period of ObamaCare, the uninsured rate for working-age Latinos dropped from 36 percent in the period July–September 2013, to 23 percent in April–June 2014.  Meanwhile, the uninsured rate for low-income Latinos dropped from 46 percent to 28 percent. Low income was defined as below $32,500 for a family of four.

Latinos in states that had expanded eligibility for Medicaid and had begun enrolling people by April 2014 have seen large gains in coverage, with the uninsured rate falling from 35 percent to 17 percent. In states that had not expanded Medicaid, the Latino uninsured rate remained statistically unchanged, at 33 percent. Twenty million Latinos live in non-expansion states, the majority in Texas and Florida.

Beginning in 2013, as part of ObamaCare’s broader effort to ensure health insurance coverage for all U.S. residents, the federal government began to pay to expand Medicaid eligibility in every state.  From 2014 to 2017, the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the difference between a state’s current Medicaid eligibility level and ObamaCare’s minimum. Federal contributions to the expansion will drop to 95 percent in 2017 and remain at 90 percent after 2020.

The Supreme Court in June 2012 ruled that the federal government could not withhold all federal Medicaid funding for states that chose not to expand their programs. The decision effectively allowed state officials to opt out of the expansion, and 23 states have done so, while 28 states including D.C. have decided to expand Medicaid.  However, Indiana, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming are expected to join the expansion list.  Presently, this results in a “coverage gap” affecting 4.5 million Americans too poor to receive help to purchase private insurance on an exchange, but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

The GOP vigorously opposes ObamaCare. Thus it is no coincidence that except for Montana, Virginia, and Missouri, the states opting out of Medicaid expansion have Republican governors.  I guess this is their way of opposing ObamaCare, but do so at the expense of their state’s uninsured.

ObamaCare repeal is fading as a GOP campaign issue.  Even if the GOP take the Senate and keep the House, President Obama can veto any attempts to repeal or weaken ObamaCare.  Hopefully, the states opting out of expansion of Medicaid will see the inevitability of ObamaCare and decide to apply for expansion of Medicaid.

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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