Implementation of the Affordable Care Act – upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court – is moving ahead, for better or worse, with full expansion slated for January 2014. Now, some are trying to determine how the act will affect different populations.
Marguerite Salazar, regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services, says Colorado’s Latino community could see some big benefits from the act, mainly through greater access to affordable insurance and preventive care.
“People were really reluctant to come in for services when they didn’t have insurance. They wanted to be able to pay for the service provided. I really believe strongly that the Affordable Care Act is going to offer that to people.”
A new group, the Latino Health Care Engagement Project, reports nearly three-quarters of a million Coloradans are uninsured. About 30 percent are Latino, more than any other racial or ethnic group. The project also found that Latinos are less likely to receive preventive care than are other groups.
The Affordable Care Act was based in part on Massachusetts’ statewide health reform. Before state reform, says Maria Gonzalez, communications and marketing director for the group “Health Care for All Massachusetts,” about one-fourth of Latinos had health insurance. Afterward, she said, the insurance rate jumped to 96-percent.
“People actually seek preventive care. They go to their primary-care physician and they get treated for preventable diseases ahead of time, which saves money to begin with, and obviously makes people healthier. People have healthier outcomes.”
Salazar stresses that contrary to some reports, the act only will benefit those who immigrated legally to the United States.
“While I firmly believe that anybody in this country should have access to health care because I think it’s a public-health issue, the Affordable Care Act does not allow people who are here unlawfully to receive any service under the Affordable Care Act.”
The Act also provides federal funds for expansion of Community Health Centers, and the Latino Health Care Engagement Project reports about one-third of patients of those centers are Latino.