The Affordable Care Act and Latinos

The Affordable Care Act is making health insurance coverage more affordable and accessible for millions of Americans. For Latinos, like other ethnic minorities, the law addresses inequities in access to quality, affordable health coverage.  The Affordable Care Act invests in prevention and wellness, and gives individuals and families more control over their care.

Latinos suffer from certain illnesses at higher rates than non-Hispanic white Americans. Roughly 31.9 percent of Latinos were obese in 2010, compared to 26.1 percent of whites, with the disparity greater among women (33.1 percent compared to 24.5 percent) [1]. While Latinos are less likely to have heart disease compared to non-Hispanic whites primarily due to their young median age, they face higher rates of the risk factors that can lead to heart disease such as obesity and diabetes [2]. Latina women have disproportionate rates of cervical cancer, which they contract at 1.6 times the rate of white women [3]. Only 46.5 percent of Latinos received a colorectal cancer screening in 2010, compared with 59.9 percent of non-Hispanics [4].

At the same time Latinos are one of America’s most disproportionately uninsured populations. As many as 1 in 4 uninsured individuals who are eligible for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace nationwide are Latino.  Through the Marketplace, 10.2 million uninsured Latinos have new opportunities for affordable health insurance coverage. The majority (62 percent) of uninsured Latinos live in California, Texas, and Florida; about half (4.6 million) are between the ages of 18 and 35.

Lawfully present immigrants may buy private health insurance on the Marketplace and may be eligible for lower costs on monthly premiums and lower out-of-pocket costs. Some may also qualify for Medicaid or CHIP. People without lawful immigration presence are not eligible to enroll in the Marketplace.  However, for members of mixed status families, it is important to note that information provided by applicants or beneficiaries won’t be used for immigration enforcement purposes.

The  majority, or 8 out of 10 (8.1 million out of 10.2 million), of eligible uninsured Latinos may qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or lower costs on monthly premiums through the Health Insurance Marketplace.   25 states and Washington, D.C. have expanded Medicaid so far, with the federal government providing 100% of the funds for the “newly eligible” for the next three years, and never less than 90% after that. If all states took advantage of new opportunities to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, 95 percent of uninsured Latinos might qualify for Medicaid, CHIP, or tax credits to help with the cost of premiums in the Marketplace. 

Eligible uninsured Latinos are a diverse community. Most uninsured Latinos who are eligible for coverage in the Marketplace either speak English or are bilingual (3.7 million rely on Spanish).  Many are part of families with immigrants.  That is why our outreach has been a bilingual effort with multiple options for families to enroll from the beginning, including applying by phone with trained call center staff offering bilingual help, or in person with trained specialists in local communities. 

Latinos who prefer Spanish can enroll through CuidadoDeSalud.gov, the Spanish language website where consumers can go to create accounts, complete an online application, and shop for health plans that fit their budget and needs. CuidadoDeSalud.gov  now supports a more robust window shopping experience. Consumers can see detailed information about each Marketplace health insurance plan offered in their area before they apply.   They can compare plans, covered benefits, physician and hospital networks, and plan prices based on household information they supply, all without creating an account or submitting an application.  Consumers will still need to complete the application to find out how they can get lower costs. 

Moreover, millions of Latinos across the country are already benefiting from the stronger coverage and consumer protections made possible by the Affordable Care Act:

  • 8.2 million Latinos with private insurance now have access to expanded preventive services with no cost sharing. This includes services such as colonoscopy screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, flu shots for all children and adults, and many more.
  • Private plans in the Marketplace are required to cover 10 essential health benefit categories, including maternity and newborn care.  278,000 Latina women in the individual market alone are projected to gain maternity coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
  • An estimated 4.9 million Latina women with private health insurance now have guaranteed access to women’s preventive services without cost sharing. These services include well-woman visits, HPV testing, counseling services, breastfeeding support, mammograms and screenings for cervical cancer, prenatal care, and other services.
  • 3.9 million elderly and disabled Latinos who receive health coverage from Medicare have access to many preventive services with no cost-sharing, including annual wellness visits with personalized prevention plans, colorectal cancer and obesity screening, and mammograms.
  • 913,000 Latino young adults between ages 19 and 25 who would have been uninsured, including 375,000 Latina women, now have coverage under their parents’ employer-sponsored or individually purchased health plan.
  • About 11.8 million Latinos, including 4.4 million Latina women, no longer have lifetime limits on their health insurance plans thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
  • Major federal investments to improve quality of care are improving management of chronic diseases that are more prevalent among Latinos.
  • The health care workforce is more diverse due to a more than doubling of the National Health Service Corps. Latino physicians make up about 10 percent of the Corps, a percentage that greatly exceeds their 5 percent share of the national physician workforce.
  • Investments in data collection and research will help us better understand the causes of health care disparities and develop effective programs to eliminate them.
  • Increased funding available to the more than 1,100 community health centers will increase the number of patients served. One of every three patients at a health center is Latino.

If you know someone you needs health insurance, tell them about the Marketplace today.  No one in America who is eligible should be afraid to apply for health coverage because they have a family with mixed status. Enrollment is open until March 31.  They can apply online at HealthCare.gov, and in Spanish at CuidadoDeSalud.gov .  Get help over the phone by calling the 24/7 customer service center (1-800-318-2596, TTY 1-855-889-4325) with translation services available, or in your local community by visiting https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/.

Posted on: April 10, 2012

Last updated: March 10, 2014


[1] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_252.pdf

[2] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_03.pdf

[3] http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/disparities/cancer-health-disparities

[4] http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6103a1.htm#tab2