What Comes Next After Graham-Cassidy?

Last week, we saw a remarkable defeat of the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Graham-Cassidy bill would have stripped millions of their health insurance, and undermined critical consumer protections. However, while the effort to repeal the ACA was unsuccessful, we still have several concerns with how its enforcement is being handled, due to the cuts to the window for open enrollment, the rollback of outreach efforts, in particular to the Latino community, and the fact that some members of Congress are still trying to undermine a law that helped millions of people access health care.

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Rep. Price Is a Dangerous Pick to Lead Nation’s Healthcare System

Despite the immense gains Latinos have made under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the U.S. Senate voted to confirm an outspoken enemy of the landmark law, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Given his well-known animosity toward providing affordable care to more Americans, we are very disappointed in the result of the final vote. We will be vigilant in monitoring his agency, and we’ll hold him accountable for his actions as secretary.

“Rep. Price has a dangerous track record of championing legislation that would take health coverage away from many Americans­ – including millions of Latinos,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía. “This includes championing efforts to repeal the ACA, along with efforts to cut Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

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How to Make the ACA Work for Latino Communities

The third open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is well underway. While Latinos still lag behind other groups when it comes health coverage, we are seeing signs of progress as more than four million Latinos have gained coverage since the law was implemented. We’re working to build off those gains and ensure the benefits of the law reach as many in our community as possible. To talk about these efforts, and how we can get more Latinos insured, NCLR hosted a national conference call with our Affiliate Network featuring U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell. The call also focused on the overall impact of the ACA on the Latino community.

You can listen to the entire call below:

The following are remarks as prepared for delivery, which NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía made at the opening of the call.

Good afternoon, buenas tardes, and thank you all for joining today’s call.

Before I begin, I want to thank the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, for joining us today to discuss a very important and timely issue for our community: the Affordable Care Act and its impact on the Latino community. We’re delighted to have you.

Also joining me are two members of my health team, Rita Carreon, Deputy Vice President of Health, and Steven Lopez, Manager of NCLR’s Health Policy Project.

As the largest civil rights and advocacy organization in the nation working to improve the lives of Hispanic Americans, the National Council of La Raza represents the most uninsured population in the country.

As part of our larger mission to reduce disparities and advance equity, NCLR has long worked to increase the number of individuals with affordable and accessible quality health insurance coverage and care.

As all of us know, the value of health insurance goes beyond better health. We know having access to the basic necessity of good health care improves the lives of people overall. It provides greater financial and social stability to families. It also markedly improves the educational prospects and chances for success later on in life for children. In short, health care is a critical building block of a better life.

All these reasons are why NCLR became deeply involved to make the ACA a reality.

From working with Congress to shape the bill and supporting its eventual passage to commenting during the regulatory period and now executing outreach and enrollment efforts to make sure the promise of the ACA reaches as many Americans as possible, NCLR has been engaged from soup to nuts.

More than four million Latinos have gained coverage since the ACA was implemented in 2010. While we’re certainly encouraged by this progress, we know now is not the time to let up. All of us must keep on working together to bring down the still too-high uninsured rates for Latinos, who are now one in six Americans, one in four Americans under 18, and will represent nearly one-third of the U.S. workforce by 2050.

For NCLR, this has involved—and will continue to involve—an extensive effort across our organization to engage, educate, and enroll Latinos across the country. Through our comprehensive ACA campaign, we will continue to leverage NCLR policy, programs, and communications work and the tools available to us to address enrollment barriers facing Latino and immigrant communities, provide culturally and linguistically appropriate education and outreach materials, and work through the media—particularly Spanish-language media—to promote ACA enrollment and get accurate information out to the community.

And we will continue to emphasize that while these new insurance options are critically important, the benefits of the ACA go beyond that. With new consumer protections and the availability of free preventive services, the ACA has enhanced the value of insurance and health care for millions of Americans.

And I’m proud to say that so many of our Affiliate Network of nearly 300 community organizations in 41 states, DC, and Puerto Rico have been part of this effort.

Our Affiliates represent some of the largest and most effective health care providers to our community in the nation. In fact, one of every two of our Affiliates is involved in health-related work. These are the organizations on the front lines in our community and they are the best possible vehicles to reach Hispanics in this country.

Several of these organizations in places like Texas, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Illinois, and right here in D.C. have been involved in ACA outreach and enrollment efforts, providing in-person enrollment assistance, the type of face-to-face resource our community values and has proven effective in getting our families enrolled.

And not only are they providing assistance in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner, they are also working with and reaching some of the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities in our country.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country to meet with our Affiliates and hear directly from them on a range of issues impacting the community, including the ACA.

It’s clear that they have their finger on the pulse of how the law is playing out and we will continue to share this insight with HHS as the agency works to create as optimal a consumer experience as possible for all who are eligible.

As we look at the current open enrollment period and further down the road ahead, we know that the Latino community will continue to be key to the success of the ACA.

All current and future outreach and enrollment strategies must have Hispanics in mind, particularly those who are limited English proficient and those who live in mixed-status households.

Before I close, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how critically important Medicaid expansion is for our community.

It’s shameful and inexcusable that millions of low-income Americans, including Latinos, are shut out of an opportunity for meaningful coverage because state leaders have refused to do what’s right for their most vulnerable residents and accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

NCLR has been engaged in advocacy efforts in Texas and Florida in particular and we will continue our push for expansion.

In closing, we know the ACA holds great promise for all Americans, including Latinos, and NCLR looks forward to the opportunities ahead to build on the gains and increase the number of individuals who get covered, stay covered, and effectively use that coverage.

And now it is my pleasure to introduce HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Secretary Burwell, thank you for joining us today and for your leadership. We value the strong partnership we have had with you and your team both as it relates to the ACA, as well as other initiatives to advance a shared goal of improving the health of the Latino community and this great nation.

Open enrollment for ACA ends January 31, 2016, but for those wanting coverage that begins on January 1, you’ll need to enroll by December 15, 2015. Go to healthcare.gov or cuidadodesalud.gov to get started!

Join the #SaludTues Twitter Chat to Get Latinos Signed Up for Health Care!

Today we’re joining Salud Today (@saludtoday) for a twitter chat focused on the importance of the Latino community to sign up for health coverage. We’ll be joined by the Department of Health and Human Services (@HHSGov, @HHSLatino), and Enroll America (@GetCoveredUS).

The chat gets started at 1 pm ET. To join the conversation and to ask your own questions about getting health coverage follow #SaludTues on Twitter or via our widget below.

We’re looking forward to chatting with you!

It’s National Women’s Health Week. Let’s Pledge to Take Care of Our Health!

By Marcela Vargas, Project Coordinator, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

nwhw-profile-photoWhile health is always on our minds here at NCLR’s Institute for Hispanic Health (IHH), this week we are particularly thinking of women’s health.

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and it kicked off National Women’s Health Week, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health to encourage women to prioritize their physical and mental health. Women were also encouraged to take steps such as paying attention to mental health, eating healthy, participating in physical activity, and getting regular checkups and health screenings.

Here at IHH, we have our own efforts to promote women’s health. Among these efforts is our project Mujer Sana, Familia Fuerte(Healthy Woman, Strong Family)—funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—which educates women in Chicago and Washington, D.C., around cervical cancer prevention through community health workers.

Cervical cancer prevention is also near and dear to us at IHH for many reasons. Latinas have the second-highest rate of both contracting and dying from cervical cancer out of all racial and ethnic groups. Despite this, Latinas are not getting screened for cervical cancer as regularly as is recommended.

But it’s not all bad news. Not only is cervical cancer preventable, but it is also easily treated if caught in early stages. Getting routine Pap tests is a valuable way of identifying cervical cancer when treatment is still simple and effective. The CDC reports that 60 percent of cervical cancer cases occur in women who have never received a Pap test or have not been tested within the last five years.

Today is the last day of National Women’s Health Week, but that doesn’t mean we can forget about our health. You can take your own steps to help yourself or a loved one prioritize a healthy life. Pledge to become a well woman and educate yourself about Latinas and cervical cancer.

Stuck in the Middle of HealthCare.gov? Make a Fresh Start


It’s no secret that visitors to the HealthCare.gov site encountered serious problems in the initial months of open enrollment of the Affordable Care Act. Consumers have been deeply frustrated in their attempts to understand their options and enroll in a health plan so that their coverage begins on January 1, 2014. Over the past few weeks, however, HealthCare.gov has been revamped. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) fixed the bugs on the HealthCare.gov site and improved the overall user experience.

Recently, HHS announced a variety of improvements to the functionality of the health care website. One new option gives consumers the opportunity for a fresh start on the enrollment experience. For those consumers who either have an open application or submitted an application, but have found themselves stuck somewhere along the process, there is now a “remove” button. According to HHS, once a consumer is logged in, a “remove” option will be available. By hitting “remove,” a consumer can delete the application and then start over.  Continue reading

October 1: A New Opportunity to Take Care of Yourself

By Jennifer Ng’andu, Director, Health and Civil Rights Policy Project, NCLR


In Spanish, the phrase cuidaté tells someone “to take care of yourself”  It also lets them know you care for them.  In the 2.5 years since passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a number of the law’s measures have been implemented to provide the same message. These measures have quite simply improved the health care experience for millions of Americans, including insured and uninsured Latinos.  Continue reading

NCLR Health Summit to Zone in On Getting Health Care Implementation Right for Latinos

By Delia Pompa, Senior Vice President, Programs, NCLR

Delia Pompa photo

(Originally posted to the Campaign for Modern Medicines blog)

In a couple of days, NCLR will host thousands of Latinos in New Orleans for its 2013 Annual Conference where we will discuss the most pressing issues of the day for the Latino community. For the second year in a row, we will place a special emphasis on health care through the NCLR Health Summit, which kicks off today in advance of the conference, thanks to the generous support from Eli Lilly and the Campaign for Modern Medicines.

The NCLR Health Summit is a crucial component of NCLR’s efforts to foster meaningful discussions about an issue that is vitally important to the Latino community. As we strive to support and disseminate programs that empower Latinos with the tools and information to foster healthy families, the Health Summit provides a forum for community-based practitioners to engage with other stakeholders and share best practices and concerns about issues that affect all of them.

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Healthcare.gov Gets a Face Lift

HealthCaredotgovPicOctober 1, 2013.  Remember that date.  Write it down.  Commit it to memory.  Why? Because that’s when health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will become available across the country and states will begin signing people up for health insurance.  Efforts are already under way to provide consumers with greater accessibility through online technology, including a web portal that allows people to choose their insurance and get information on affordability.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just relaunched its health reform website to provide resources that make us better consumers as we shop for health insurance.

The relaunch of www.healthcare.gov couldn’t come at a better time.  An April 2013 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that 42% of Americans are unaware that the ACA is still law.  Some of that confusion may be due to the politics of the ACA.  Nonetheless, if the Kaiser Poll results are any indication, there is a lot of work ahead to raise awareness of the law and help those who are eligible enroll—especially Latinos.

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Stop the Madness! Let’s Really Invest in Children.

By Liany Arroyo, Associate Director, Education and Children’s Policy Project, NCLR

Milagro Kids

As a mamí and an advocate, I have had a lot to smile about over the last two weeks. I am finally hearing politicians talk about the issues that matter most to me personally and professionally. While some would have thought it impossible for Republicans and Democrats to both agree that investments in the future of our children are necessary, it has finally happened. Granted, they may have different ideas on how to do it, but at least there is an acknowledgment that we have to invest in children.

The fact that both House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R–Va.) in remarks to the American Enterprise Institute and President Obama in his State of the Union address made it clear that children are, and should remain, a priority to our nation is something to be excited about. However, as parents, we now need to ensure that this is not simply talk. We have to hold our elected officials accountable for doing the hard work necessary for all of our nation’s children to thrive. That starts with ensuring that the arbitrary cuts scheduled for March 1 do not occur.

Those cuts, known as sequestration, will have a devastating impact on programs vital to the future of our children. Yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified about the impact of these cuts on education. Education programs that serve our most vulnerable children would face severe cuts, with 1.2 million children losing access to additional educational supports through Title I and as many as 7,200 teachers and aides who work with disabled children at risk of losing their jobs. These are children who need assistance most, yet our elected officials are willing to leave them in the dark.

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