HHS, outreach groups focus on Latinos in final enrollment push

As the federal government and other organizations prepare for one final Affordable Care Act enrollment push, they plan to focus their efforts particularly on one of the hardest groups to reach--the Latino population.

In the open enrollment period that ends Jan. 31 as well as the "Latino Week of Action" next week, the Department of Health and Human Services has an opportunity to build on the progress the ACA has made toward increasing this community's access to insurance and healthcare, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said on a call Wednesday organized by Enroll America.

"The Latino community still suffers from health disparities like disproportionate rates of asthma, diabetes and certain cancers," she said. "But with better access to annual checkups, diet counseling and many cancer screenings, we can begin to close these gaps."

Because of the ACA, 8.8 million Latinos with private insurance now have access to expanded preventive services with no cost sharing, Burwell said, and the law has also reduced the number of uninsured Latinos by 4 million. Burwell has previously had that of the uninsured whose incomes would qualify them for tax credits to help pay premiums and discounts to reduce their cost burdens, almost one-third are members of minority groups.

Nevertheless, research from the Urban Institute shows that 1 in 5 Latino adults is still living without health insurance, Enroll America President Anne Filipic said during the call. So to reach this and other underserved populations, the group is "kicking into high gear" its strategy to focus on reaching hourly workers and other economically vulnerable populations, she said.

For instance, the group works with the North Carolina Farm Workers Project to connect farm workers coming to the state with health coverage through the ACA. "If you look at our budget, our greatest investment is in putting staff directly into communities," she said.

In addition, research shows the Latino population is more likely to seek one-on-one assistance, she said, so Enroll America knew it was crucial to offer its Get Covered Connector--a digital tool that lets consumers schedule an appointment with an in-person navigator--in Spanish.

Other organizations also are pitching in to reach out to the Latino community. For example, the League of United Latin American Citizens is turning its community centers into round-the-clock enrollment sites, LULAC President Roger Rocha said. Also, the National Association Hispanic Nurses, already working to help educate nurses on ACA outreach through an HHS grant, plans to have its chapters make extra efforts in next few weeks as part of the final enrollment push, Executive Director Celia T. Besore said.

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