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Bad Spanish site causes “˜Obamacare’ headache

Bad Spanish site causes “˜Obamacare’ headache

View original at the Santa Fe New Mexican

The White House’s failed rollout of its Spanish-language health care website, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, is a laughing stock. Much like its English-language counterpart, the site is filled with technical issues and mistranslations. It also has links to English-only pages and forms.

But the joke is on Hispanics and Latinos such as myself. Beyond the faulty launch of the federal website, the Affordable Care Act penalizes the Hispanic American community in New Mexico in several serious ways. The end result is that a law that was supposed to help us actually makes affordable and quality health care even harder to find.

One issue that has received too little attention is how “Obamacare” affects patient choice and doctor-patient relationships. These are major issues for Hispanic Americans. According to the Census Bureau, we’re the least likely demographic to seek out medical attention. A full 42 percent of Hispanics don’t visit the doctor even once a year. When we do go to see a doctor, we’re very picky. The National Hispanic Medical Association reports that Hispanics prefer doctors who “appreciate [our] culture and understand [our] families’ dynamics and [our] traditions.”

Unfortunately, our options are limited by the fact that only 5 percent of doctors are Hispanic (even though we’re more than 46 percent of New Mexico’s population). Yet that’s where Obamacare kicks in and makes things worse. Because the law imposes so many expensive mandates and regulations on health insurance, the most affordable health care plans no longer include the large networks that give us the most choice.

For Hispanics, this limits our already strained access to the doctors we want and worsens our culture’s chronic doctor shortages.

But this isn’t even the worst of the Affordable Care Act’s problems. Despite what we were promised, the Affordable Care Act is surprisingly unaffordable.
Obamacare will simply be too expensive for many Hispanics. The problem for us stems from the law’s over-reliance on the young. This directly affects the Hispanic American community because we are significantly younger than the average American. In fact, our median age is 27 — the age that’s most severely harmed by the Affordable Care Act’s premium increases.

This is either an unfortunate coincidence or a cruel joke. Either way, it couldn’t be worse for Hispanics’ financial health. A recent analysis by Forbes concludes that the average 27-year-old’s health care premium has spiked by 160 percent for men and by 146 percent for women in New Mexico since Obamacare took effect.

These skyrocketing prices are bad news for the more than 950,000 Hispanics and Latinos who call New Mexico home. Many of us will struggle to find the cash to pay much more than we already do, even after subsidies. Thanks to the individual mandate, we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place: We can either pony up the cash or pay a penalty that will total nearly $700 for individuals and more than $2,000 for families.

This litany of problems makes it seem like Hispanic Americans’ needs weren’t taken into account by the Affordable Care Act’s architects. Surely we deserved better. We have the highest uninsured rate in the nation, at just under 30 percent, and yet Obamacare gives us little reason to join its ranks.
Then again, it would be hard to sign up for Obamacare online even if we wanted to. The broken website makes a mockery of the Spanish language — and that’s only the latest of Obamacare’s broken promises to our community.

Daniel Garza is the executive director of the LIBRE Initiative.