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At Enrollment Conference, Congressman Joaquin Castro Calls on Texas Gov. Abbott to 'Do the Right Thing' and Expand ACA, Medicaid

First Posted: May 12, 2016 09:22 PM EDT
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Supporters of the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare.

Photo : David McNew/Getty Images

The national effort to engage Americans, particularly the Latino community, about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continued at Enroll America's third State of Enrollment conference in Washington, D.C., where Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, exclusively told Latin Post about the health reform law's benefits for the people.

Congressman Castro, Bringing A Latino Texan Perspective

On May 12, Castro spoke to attended of the State of Enrollment conference, organized by Enroll America, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that has helped increase health care insurance enrollment. Castro's presence allowed him to speak from numerous perspectives: as a lawmaker, a Texan and a Latino.

The Lone Star State, however, are among the nearly three-dozen states that have yet to expand Medicaid. According to Enroll America data, 16 percent of Texans between 18 and 64 years old, regardless of ethnicity, are uninsured. The aforementioned uninsured rate, however, is a drop from 2013's 21.3 percent. Among Texan Hispanics, 23 percent are lack health insurance, especially Latino men compared to Latinas within the 18 to 34 age group, 32 percent to 28 percent, respectively.

According to Castro, the ACA, often referred to as Obamacare, "has been a lifesaver for so many Americans, including a great number of Latinos across the country." The congressman for Texas' 20th Congressional District, which includes Bexar County and home to a Hispanic uninsured rate of 19 percent, said it's "unfortunate" Texas has yet expanded Medicaid.

"They should do the right thing and expand Medicaid ... There are a lot of Latinos that are working hard every day but still, despite their hard work, are not able to afford health insurance but also to support their families," Castro told Latin Post on Thursday. "Expanding Medicaid would allow hardworking people to go see their doctor, make sure they're healthy to support their family."

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, speaking to attendees of Enroll America's State of Enrollment Conference on May 12, 2016, in Washington, D.C.
(Photo: Enroll America) Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, speaking to attendees of Enroll America's State of Enrollment Conference on May 12, 2016, in Washington, D.C.

"I've been pushing very hard for the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, and the state legislature to expand Medicaid in our state as it would help over a million Texans," added Castro, noting the federal government will be 100 percent responsible of paying for the full ACA adoption in Texas and would save the state money over the long term.

Abbott opposes the ACA's Medicaid expansion and has even supported other states in blocking its development. In May 2015, Abbott filed an amicus brief to support fellow Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, also home to a significant Latino population, in a lawsuit against Medicaid expansion. According to Abbott, the decision not to expand Medicaid is a "constitutional right."

The State of Enrollment

Thursday was the first of the two-day State of Enrollment conference in Washington, D.C., where approximately 700 participants across 48 states gathered for numerous sessions such as amplifying Latino outreach, streamlining and strategizing enrollment through technology, educating new enrollees on how to best understand and utilize their health plan and familiarizing with the health care law's exemptions, penalties and taxes.

"Enroll America members are excited," Castro said about the State of Enrollment conference. "They know the kind of profound impact on the lives of millions of Americans and they're excited about the upcoming enrollment season later in the year. The ACA is going to continue to grow and help more families."

The first day saw a keynote address from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell, who spoke about the next open enrollment period, which she projects will be a big success. Burwell acknowledged the in-person assistance has been critical in people enrolling or renewing their health plans.

The two-day conference includes other Latino leaders speak and discuss the ACA's impact toward the Latino community, including The Children's Partnership President of Mayra Alvarez. Thursday included Alvarez and other panelists discuss how even small community groups, churches, school and teachers can make an impact in the enrollment gains within their communities.

"It's energizing to see how receptive and passionate our partners are about our digital tools like the Get Covered Connector and Plan Explorer that offer them a better way to assist the uninsured and newly insured," Enroll America spokesperson Annette Raveneau told Latin Post. "The State of Enrollment Conference is helping them connect with each other and learn new methods of engaging the communities we all serve."

Based on data released in March, the HHS revealed 20 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage as a result of the ACA's first provisions went into effect in 2010, including 6.1 million millennials between the ages of 19 and 25. Within the Latino community, across America, the ACA helped the uninsured rate drop from 41.8 percent to 30.5 percent. Since 2010, approximately four million Latino adults gained insurance. Despite the declining uninsured rate, Latinos still represent the largest uninsured demographic in the U.S.

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For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.

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