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October 31, 2014

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Town hall speakers urge education about new health insurance exchanges

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Tovin Lapan

(L-R) Andres Ramirez, Know Your Care, Liliana Ranon, League of United Latin American Citizens, and Steve Wiener of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services listen in as CJ Bawden, communications director for Nevada Health Link, answers a question posed by an attendee at the LULAC Health Care Town Hall Tuesday April 23, 2013 at the Grant Sawyer State Building in Las Vegas.

One group that stands to benefit from the Affordable Care Act is Hispanics, who make up 16 percent of the U.S. population but 30.7 percent of the nation’s uninsured population.

Starting in October, the Nevada health insurance exchange, Nevada Health Link, will start enrolling members, and on Tuesday the League of United Latin American Citizens played host to a town-hall meeting at the Grant Sawyer Building with various officials. The meeting’s emphasis was informing the Hispanic community about the changes in the health care law and how it affects them.

“Health care is one of those areas where we have to close the disparity gaps,” said Liliana Rañon, the league’s health and nutrition director.

While nearly one in three U.S. Hispanics is without health insurance, 20 percent of blacks, 18 percent of Asians and 12 percent of non-Hispanic whites lack insurance.

The low rate of coverage means Hispanics are less likely to receive routine care and more likely to seek treatment only once a problem becomes chronic. It also is a factor in higher rates of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and obesity among Hispanics, according to the league.

“It’s really about educating yourself. This stuff is happening really quickly. The fact that these marketplaces are going to be open on Oct. 1, people need to be aware of this, and I realize that a lot of people are not,” said Steve Wiener of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The first places people with Internet access can go for information are the federal websites, HealthCare.gov and NevadaHealthLink.com. HealthCare.gov’s Spanish-language counterpart is CuidadoDeSalud.gov. NevadaHealthLink.com’s Spanish-language counterpart, NevadaEnlacedeSeguro.com, is not yet live.

Attendees Tuesday had the opportunity to pose questions to Wiener; Rañon; CJ Bawden, communications director for Nevada Health Link; Rose Park of the Governor’s Office for Consumer Health Assistance; and Andres Ramirez, president of the Ramirez Group, which helped organize the town hall and also represents Know Your Care, a group educating the public on the Affordable Care Act.

James Espinosa, 23, was one of the first to pose a question. He wanted to know, as someone who is uninsured and makes $12,000 a year, what options are available for him.

The Affordable Care Act makes it possible for children to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 years old, but Espinosa’s parents also lack coverage. Bawden said Espinosa would most likely qualify, based on his income, for the expansion of Medicaid underway.

Other questions submitted and the answers:

Will they cover my current condition? Yes, you cannot be denied coverage based on a pre-existing condition.

Will the plans offered in the Nevada exchange cover autism? Yes, under a state mandate, the insurance plans will cover treatment for autism spectrum disorders but there will be some limits on those services.

Will the plans offered in the Nevada exchange cover physical, speech and occupational therapy? Yes, habilitative and rehabilitative care will be covered, with some limits.

How will those without Internet access apply? There will be both state employees and organizations that are awarded grants to help people navigate and apply for coverage. It will also be possible for state residents to apply via mail.

Park urged anyone with questions about the exchanges and Affordable Care Act to ask for an ombudsman to walk them through the process at the Governor’s Office for Consumer Health Assistance.

As the Oct. 1 opening date for the state exchange approaches, the state will roll out a campaign to better inform the public. It will include community events, media outreach and advertisements.

The Affordable Care Act’s provisions and especially any subsidies, for the most part, apply only to U.S. citizens and in some cases lawfully present immigrant residents, but they exclude immigrants in the country without legal residency.

To watch a video of the town hall, click here.

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  1. Or one of the groups most likely to be harmed by the legislation since they will be penalized with a tax if they don't buy insurance. Over half the uninsured are uninsured because they didn't want to be insured, not because they couldn't afford it (ie they wanted to spend the money on other things)...