The Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price Thursday, demanding he meet with members about Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment. Members were prompted by recent reports that no one from the Trump administration had reached out to key members of the Latino ACA outreach coalition to begin preparing for the open enrollment session, which begins November 1.
Members of the coalition, like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Hispanic Medical Association, and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, would normally be in the midst of enrollment frenzy by this point in the year. The fact that HHS has not reached out to members yet, then, is concerning.
The news is especially troubling given the president’s previous statements about letting the ACA implode. President Donald Trump agreed to make subsidy payments to insurance companies Wednesday, after repeatedly threatening to do the opposite. Trump’s refusal to commit to paying insurance companies for providing subsidized care to low-income people has previously prompted some insurers to raise 2018 premiums rates.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that if Trump withheld payments to insurance companies, premiums for benchmark plans would rise 20 percent next year and 25 percent by 2020. Additionally, it would cost the federal government, namely taxpayers, about $194 billion over 10 years.
Latinos saw significant gains in coverage under the ACA, but still represent a large share of the current uninsured rate.
“The challenge becomes overcoming enrollment barriers, even when people are eligible,” the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Samantha Artiga told ThinkProgress after news first broke that HHS had not begun Latino outreach. “What we learned from implementation experience is how important on-the-ground, one-on-one enrollment is, reaching out to this population is, and enrollment coming from someone they trust.”
As the members write in their letter:
The ACA remains the law of the land. As the agency tasked with launching a successful 2018 enrollment period, we should work together to ensure that HHS provides resources, information and properly coordinates with community stakeholders so we maximize access to health care for all eligible Hispanics and Americans. We urge HHS to prioritize Latino outreach and enrollment efforts in the 2018 enrollment period, and request an urgent meeting with you to discuss how the CHC can better work with your agency to ensure that more Hispanic families have access to affordable, quality health coverage and care.