With all the upheaval surrounding the Affordable Care Act (also known as ObamaCare), there is great news for Latinos. In the past year, significant numbers of Latinos have obtained health insurance coverage. The trend is a marked improvement as Latinos are traditionally among the least-insured populations.

According to the Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey and as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, rates of Latinos without health insurance dropped a full 13 percentage points – from 36 to 23 percent. The Commonwealth Fund is a private research group focused on health care issues.

The numbers still represent a higher number than the general American adult population which stands at 15 percent uninsured (12 percent for non-Hispanic white adults), but the improvement is welcome.

According to the report, the past year has seen a definite improvement in rates of Latinos covered by health insurance, especially in the young adult population of those between the ages of 19 and 34 and in those with the lowest incomes. And whether the dominant language was English or Spanish, both groups showed gains in coverage, with primarily Spanish-speaking adults showing a larger gain in insurance coverage, although they still lag in overall coverage by more than 10 percentage points.

With affordable health insurance coverage comes many benefits. Personal health treatment and care – from chronic illness care to maternity care to overall family health care – could potentially reap tremendous gains in both physical and mental health and wellness. But, as the report points out, the benefits extend far beyond personal health. With health care coverage, individuals and families have less chance of accumulating insurmountable debt from a health crisis. Once the worry over lack of health care coverage and all the health and financial ramifications of not being covered is lifted, quality of life improves.

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There are still many improvements that need to happen so that all Latinos and Hispanic Americans not only have access to coverage but can access it in either English or Spanish and can get help signing up for a health plan, if needed, when first visiting the marketplaces.

And, the report cautions, states that have not expanded their Medicaid eligibility have higher rates of uninsured Latinos, with the statistics of uninsured Latinos remaining virtually unchanged from before the Affordable Care Act was implemented. Despite the positive gains in many other states, the lack of expanding coverage in many states affects millions of people.    

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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