New Report: ACA Helping Latinos, But Progress in Texas Depends on Legislature

Last week the Commonwealth Fund released a report showing a dramatic increase in the percentage of Latinos who have health insurance nationwide. That’s the good news. When Americans started buying insurance through the federal Marketplace last fall, 36 percent of Latinos were uninsured. Now, less than a year later, 23 percent are uninsured.

That means more Americans will get vaccines, check ups, and other kinds of preventive care that help them stay healthy. When the do get sick, they’re less likely to go broke, and more likely to get the medical care they need to get back to their families and their jobs quickly.

But here’s the bad news: The report also points out that there has been no progress on the uninsured rate for Latinos in states – such as Texas – that haven’t accepted our share of new federal Medicaid funding for low-wage workers.

National Council of La Raza and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce drove this point home last month with the release of the report, “Closing the Health Care Coverage Gap in Texas: A Latino Perspective.”

The study finds that 600,000 Latinos are in the Coverage Gap in Texas, meaning they have no affordable insurance options because the state hasn’t accepted the new Medicaid funds. They don’t receive insurance from their employers and they don’t qualify for financial assistance on the federal Marketplace because their incomes are below the federal poverty line (about $24,000 for a family of four).

The report noted that Latinos make up 60 percent of the Coverage Gap population in Texas and 50 percent of the state’s total uninsured.

During the release of the report, the head of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Ramiro Cavazos, declared,

“It’s time to take a step in the right direction and expand access to care for more Texans; it’s the right thing to do to move Texas forward.”

Other Latino leaders are speaking out, too.

In a recent op-ed, State Senator Sylvia Garcia explains why Latinos need the legislature to expand Medicaid or develop an alternative Texas plan. She talks about the million-plus Texans who will gain insurance when the legislature takes action:

“They are vital contributors to our state's economy - your aunt who works as a cashier, your nephew who works as a waiter, or your father who is a building maintenance tech. “

Of course, these jobs are performed by Texans from every race, religion, and corner of the state, and all Texans stand to gain if the state develops a plan to accept our share of funding to close the Coverage Gap.

Texans would save on property taxes that go to cover local health programs and unpaid ER bills. Our economy would boom, growing by over 200,000 jobs. Kids would have healthier parents, and small businesses would have their employees back on the job faster after they get sick.

A few recent signs suggest we could see progress during the next legislative session. Local Republican and Democratic leaders and business leaders are calling for a Texas plan. Legislators are starting to consider alternative to Medicaid expansion. And other red states are striking health care deals with the federal government.

We look forward to reading future reports about the health care gains Latinos and other Americans are making in the US, regardless of the state they call home.

Written by Peter Clark, Texans Care for Children.