With the Republicans winning the majority of the Senate in the most recent elections, they now control both houses. In their victory, they have voiced concern over two important issues, health care and immigration. However, because immigration reform remains unresolved, many people cannot take advantage of any of the health care reforms enacted over the past few years.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell recently made statements in support of immigration reform. The conversation came as a surprise to many, but joins in the numerous official government voices frustrated with the lack of meaningful immigration reform. In a webcast, Burwell spoke out against the broken immigration system which prevents many children brought to the U.S. as children, or DREAMers, from getting medical coverage.
Obamacare open enrollment is set for this coming weekend. Burwell's webcast appearance is among many appearances to get the word out on open enrollment. She has cited the country's growing Latino population as a key demographic for new health care sign-ups. “We need to reform the system and make the changes that we need that will lead to benefits in everything from health care to economics,” said Burwell.
However, in a report by the Los Angeles Times, many Latinos are hesitant to sign up for Obamacare out of fear that doing so will risk getting relatives deported. In California alone, approximately 600,000 Latinos are still uninsured, even though many qualify for subsidized health care coverage. They account for 62 percent of those who remain without insurance,many of whom cannot get insurance through the exchanges because of their unlawful status.
A survey conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation found that almost half of uninsured Latinos became newly insured in 2014, almost a quarter of those uninsured were “very worried” that signing up would draw attention to the immigration status of family members. The majority of those newly covered were enrolled under Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program. Now, new TV ads are seeking to convince those remaining uninsured to sign up.
The state's health care exchange program, California Covered, is spending $95 million on marketing and outreach in the coming months. California already accounted for 15 percent of the initial Obamacare rollout nationwide, and the administration is hoping for another big push during the next enrollment period. Open enrollment will run from Saturday, November 15th, until February 15, 2015.
However, for many families of mixed immigration status, they remain concerned that answering detailed questions about family members may expose them to deportation. The government has assured people that health care information will not be shared with immigration officials, but many remain worried. The White House administrations continued delay on executive action has not helped the image of the president among many Latinos.
When Covered California enrollment first opened last year, they had no applications in Spanish. Now officials say they have learned from past mistakes, and are seeking to target Latino enrollment. According to the executive director for Covered California, “we have to address this issue of immigration status head on. We need trusted voices saying it's safe.”