About one in three Latinos is uninsured, and Hispanic families are among the groups that can most benefit from the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of health care coverage. Yet more than half — 54 percent — of Latinos in Colorado could not name one specific aspect of the law, such as the fact that parents can insure their children until the age of 26 (only 18 percent knew), or that insurance companies cannot discriminate due to a pre-existing condition (only 14 percent knew).
“At this point, information is relatively low but the desire to be engaged in the process is very high,” said Dr. Gabriel Sanchez, Director of Research for Latino Decisions, who conducted the survey for Adelante con la Salud: Latino Health Care Engagement Project, which seeks to inform the state’s Hispanics on the new law.
A key finding was that only a mere 6 percent of Colorado Latinos knew about the health care exchanges — the main mechanism created by the law so families can purchase affordable insurance. This is significant, because the law was set up so that health care costs would gradually go down as millions of Americans sign up for health insurance through the exchanges.
Currently, the high cost of health care has taken its toll among Latino families, according to the poll. Forty-three percent of Hispanics in Colorado say they have used up savings to pay medical bills, and almost one in three say they can’t cover their basic needs due to medical costs. Forty-five percent of Latinos surveyed say they rely on home remedies to defray medical costs, almost three in ten skip treatments and more than a quarter of Latinos did not get their prescriptions filled due to costs.
When asked how they would prefer to obtain information on the ACA, Latinos surveyed said hospitals (27 percent) followed by doctors (21 percent). “We cannot assume doctors are informed about the Affordable Care Act,” said Sanchez, who is also the Assistant Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico. Giving the medical community key talking points, said Sanchez, is necessary to avoid medical doctors giving “misinformation” about the new health care law.
Melanie Herrera Botz, co-Project director from Adelante con la Salud, said Colorado is already ahead of some states, especially on the rollout of the health care exchanges, which are supposed to be in place in October. “We changed the name to Connect for Health Colorado, we’re running TV commercials, and bus ads will be rolled — let’s hope our work pays off in October,” she said.
“One of our jobs is educating on how to navigate the health care system,” said Herrera Botz, explaining many families need to understand the basics, like what a premium or a deductible is. “If we don’t educate them on how to use it, it won’t work,” she said.
An interesting finding of the survey was that only 25 percent of Latinos knew that undocumented immigrants cannot participate in the health insurance program. Half of Latinos thought they could — and 62 percent think they should be eligible.