Affordable Care Act: What's at stake for California's communities of color?

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Now that President Obama has won a second term, the federal Affordable Care Act is going full steam ahead. Millions of uninsured Californians stand to benefit in 2014. But many people harbor concerns about how the plan will help immigrants and others outside the national mainstream.

The debate in Washington about the “fiscal cliff” and reducing the federal budget deficit could translate into cuts to the health care expansion plan –mainly the Medicaid program and the tax credit subsidies that would make healthcare available to people who live in poverty.

Jennifer Ng’andu, director of the Health and Civil Rights Policy Project at the National Council of La Raza, is keeping a close watch on developments.

“Health equity is at stake and it’s directly tied to the Affordable Care Act," Ng'andu said. "Racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half of the uninsured in the U.S. today, and one in three of those uninsured individuals in the United States are Latino.”

More than 60 million Latinos around the country will benefit from the Affordable Care Act. But reaching them will mean overcoming language and literacy obstacles and a lot of bureaucratic confusion.

Samantha Artiga, director of the Disparities Policy Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation, predicts that recent arrivals from Asia and Latin America will face other obstacles depending on their immigration status.

“Non-citizen immigrants will face some specific Medicaid eligibility restrictions under reform," she said. "Most notably, many lawfully residing immigrants are subject to a five-year wait before they can enroll in Medicaid. And undocumented immigrants will continue to remain ineligible under reform.”

Los Angeles County officials are expanding services and streamlining the application process for people who do qualify. Come 2014, it’ll be in the county’s interest for newly insured people to choose its medical services.

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