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Utah Latinos Say "Si" to Affordable Care Act

PHOTO: Latina woman with sick child.
PHOTO: Latina woman with sick child.
July 17, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is constitutional, some are predicting the effects on Utah's Latino community, which now includes almost 100,000 people without health insurance.

About 38 percent of Latinos in Utah are uninsured, which is more than three times the uninsured rate of the state's white population. Marguerite Salazar, Region 8 director of the Department of Health and Human Services, says the major benefits for Hispanic Utahans will be greater access to affordable insurance and preventive care.

"People were really reluctant to come in for services when they didn't have insurance. They wanted to be able to to pay for the service provided. And I really believe strongly that the Affordable Care Act is going to offer that to people."

The ACA was based, in part, on Massachusetts' statewide health reform. Maria Gonzalez, communications director of the group Health Care for All Massachusetts says before the reforms, only about one-quarter Latinos there had health insurance. Afterward, she says, that figure jumped to 96 percent.

"People actually seek preventive care. They go to their primary care physician and they get treated for preventable diseases ahead of time, which saves money to begin with, and obviously makes people healthier. People have healthier outcomes."

And contrary to some reports, the law will only benefit those who immigrated legally to the U.S., adds Salazar.

"While I firmly believe that anybody in this country should have access to health care because I think it's a public health issue, the Affordable Care Act does not allow people who are here unlawfully to receive any service under the Affordable Care Act."

The law also provides federal funds to expand the system of Community Health Centers (CHC). The Latino Health Care Engagement Project reports that Latinos make up about one-third of CHC patients.

Insurance statistics are from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - UT