by Mayra E. Alvarez, M.H.A. for Latina Style Magazine
There is a saying in Spanish, “La salud vale más que todas las riquezas,” which loosely means “Health is better than wealth.” It’s a saying that speaks to many Latinos who, like my immigrant parents from Mexico, came to America understanding that our health is critical to our ability to succeed in school, find a job, and create middle-class security for our family. Today, thanks to President Obama’s health care law, affordable health insurance will soon be within reach to make that American Dream a reality for millions of more Latinos.
Health insurance is more than just a card in your wallet. It’s the peace of mind getting our families the preventive care they need to stay healthy. It’s the comfort of knowing a hospital bill won’t wipe away everything they’ve worked for. It’s security, and it makes our families and communities stronger.
Because of the new health law, millions of Latinos who are part of the majority of Americans with insurance are already receiving smarter, stronger care. Close to one million Latino young adults who were uninsured have gained coverage by being able to stay on their parent’s health plan. More than eight million Latinos with private insurance have access to preventive services like wellness visits, cancer screenings, and contraception, all without having to pay anything out-of-pocket.
And because of the new health law, we also have a once-in-a-generation opportunity over the next year to expand the ranks of insured Latinos. In fact, 25 percent of the population eligible for new insurance coverage options is Hispanic and 10 percent speak primarily Spanish.
And it comes at a critical time. One in three Latinos in America lacks access to health insurance. One in two lacks access to a consistent source of care. Latino families do their best to juggle a lot of priorities, but after paying rent and utilities, and buying groceries and gas, there may not be much left to afford health care.
These types of health disparities are barriers to economic opportunity for the Latino community. Our kids can’t learn in school if they’re home sick with a preventable illness. Parents can’t do well on the job if a previous injury has turned into a chronic condition because they never went to see a doctor. A young, aspiring Latina might not go to college and get a good job because her family had to cash out college savings to pay for hospital bills.
But soon, every state will get a new Health Insurance Marketplace where families and small business owners can find a plan that fits their budget. You’ll be able to shop for coverage over the phone, in person, or online through the easy-to-use Marketplace website,healthcare.gov or cuidadodesalud.gov. And if you need help paying for coverage, you may be eligible for financial assistance to help pay for health insurance purchased in the Marketplace. Many states are also expanding Medicaid, which will help lower-income Latinos find another option for new coverage.
But just because they have the chance to get covered doesn’t mean they will. Some people have been uninsured or underinsured for so long that they simply don’t believe that affordable insurance coverage will ever be within reach. A big share of the uninsured is young and healthy who don’t think they need insurance. In fact, there are nearly five million uninsured Latinos alone between the ages of 18 and 35. So we have a huge opportunity, but we also have a lot of work to do.
That’s why we need your help. From Latino business leaders to mamís and papís, tíos and tías to Latino elected officials, we all have a role to play to spread the word, sign people up, and help educate Latinos about the health insurance coverage options available to them.
You can start now by visiting HealthCare.gov or cuidadodesalud.gov and signing up for updates that you can share with your family and friends. As we get closer to October 1st when the new Marketplace opens for enrollment, you can support our outreach efforts through traditional and social media and by talking with your neighbors and colleagues.
My parents, like millions of other Latinos, came to this country to reach their American Dream. With affordable health insurance coverage, all Americans have one more tool in making their dreams a reality.