The Obamacare death spiral was a topic of debate in 2014. Opponents of Obamacare projected that there weren’t enough young, healthy individuals enrolled with the system, and that the law would collapse under its own weight. Although that collapse did not come to pass, Obamacare still requires a large number of young individuals who can help offset the costs of premiums and control the premium increases scheduled for 2015. Naturally to accomplish this, the Obama administration needs to rengage the young population and encourage them to enroll in an exchange.
With a sizeable number of young individuals already enrolled, the Obama administration has turned its sight to Latinos, a demographic that consists of 10.2 million young individuals eligible for new insurance plans under Obamacare or expansion plan of the Medicaid program. This section of the American population is younger than the rest, and the administration stands to benefit from having this section enrolled and part of the system. These younger individuals can help offset costs, but Obamacare is having trouble enrolling these individuals owing to a very simple yet exasperating problem – immigration status.
Latinos fear that by signing up for the Obamacare health benefits, they would be attracting the attention of immigration authorities. To avoid the scrutiny, most Hispanics have preferred not enrolling with the system, thereby hurting the penetration of the law in this sect. The enrollment is falling short, as exemplified by several states with substantial Hispanic population. For instance, California’s population comprises about 38 percent Latinos, but only 13 percent have enrolled on the state health insurance marketplace Covered California. This is true even when all available data shows that Latinos are more supportive of the Obamacare health insurance law, with 61 percent Hispanics sharing a favorable stance on the law as opposed to only 29 percent native population. The same case is true in the case of MNSure, Minnesota’s exchange, which has found that Latino families are ready to sign up with the law, but shy away at the mention of providing personal information for identity verification.
Mayra Alvarez, Associate Director of minority health at HHS, feels that solid improvement is needed in this area and the enrollment numbers are nowhere close to what the department and administration desires for Hispanics. On the other hand, the Obama administration’s track record is scaring away Hispanics. In Obama administration’s first term, a record number of people were deported owing to strong implementation of immigration laws. Although the administration is clearing way for offering citizenship to roughly 11 million undocumented people living in America, deportations in 2012 increased to roughly double of their 2003 number. This is where the fear is stemming from.
In most Hispanic families, either a spouse is undocumented or both parents are undocumented while their children are natural citizens of the country. These mixed-status families are confused about their eligibility and fear that immigration might split their family on these grounds, and thus, they do not want to divulge their information while enrolling for health insurance with the federal marketplace.
However on the other side, advocates of the law think that by enrolling with the law that Hispanics will not be walking into the crosshairs of immigration authorities, provided they disclose their family’s earnings and pay their taxes even if they are undocumented. Another step from the Obama administration has worked to strengthen the positioning of the law for Latinos. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declared that any information disclosed for insurance shopping will not be used by the department for immigration checks.
Other than immigration check fears, penetration of internet is also a major problem for Hispanics. Most Hispanics belong to a lower income group and are less likely to have a home internet connection. To tackle these outreach concerns, the Obama administration has already setup CuidadoDeSalud.gov, a Spanish version of the www.healthcare.gov portal. Native language information availability has helped a lot toward enrollment already. Other than online enrollments, local community navigators and specific community events are helping Hispanics getting the required information and enrolling with the law. It seems clear that the administration does not want to leave any stone unturned in gathering the attention of this demographic.
The only remaining step is to guide the Latinos and assure them that their personal information will not be used for immigration purposes or divulged to other parties. While the immigration challenges still exist in the background, Latino enrollments should pick up when these hurdles clear out.