March 31 has come and gone, and the Obamacare open enrollment period has concluded. Now there are 8 million newly insured individuals covered by the Affordable Care Act, many of whom are confused about what this means for them.

Health care experts met for an online panel hosted by Voto Latino on May 22 entitled "ACA Open Enrollment Has Ended; Now What?" where expert advocates browsed questions and offered answers to people in need of answers regarding their health care. Voto Latino's Communications Project Manager, Yándary Zavala moderated the healthcare, Medicaid, and affordable care act discussion, which touched upon the topics of "grandfathered plans," "catastrophic coverage," "motor voter law," "special enrollment," and much more.

Mayra Alvarez, the associate director at the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Daniel Zingale, the senior vice president of Healthy California, The California Endowment; Bertha Alisia Guerrero, National Director of Advocacy, Hispanic Federation; and Kashif Syed of Reproductive Justice Fellow, Advocates for Youth shared their insight during the live-streamed hangout.

The audience sent questions via social media, email, and text message on subjects related to Medicaid, open enrollment, health care rights, and standing benefits. Individually and collaboratively, the facilitators answered questions and reinforced important information, like the fact that the ACA offers ten essential, core health benefits with all of their plans, including prenatal care, emergency care, laboratory services and pediatric services. Other benefits depend solely on individual insurance plans, so they stressed that those with "pre-existing conditions should check with insurance to make sure that you're making an informed decision."

Health plans have different premiums and offer different services, so patients must be educated about what's available, and make sure their plan offers exactly what they need. If someone requires hearing aids and other hardware, then confirming that will be covered is a priority. Also, knowing that STI/HIV and prenatal treatment and counseling are mandated by the ACA without copays or a deductible is important for everyone to know.

Those who missed the enrollment date due to job loss, having a baby, adopting a child, becoming a citizen, or having any other major life events such as a change to tax file status, qualify to apply under the special enrollment period. Doing so makes it possible to access a new plan and may qualify you for a tax credit or cost sharing reductions, according to Alvarez. And if one is not qualified for the special enrollment period, remember that Medicaid is year-round and open to qualifying parties who need coverage.

California, a leader in healthcare coverage for Latinos, continues to offer MediCali to its low income citizens — and moved forward with coverage when the rest of country was still "bickering." MediCali, California's version of Medicaid, extends healthcare benefits to millions, including some undocumented immigrants like DACA residents or Dreamers. Zingale indicated that as tax payers and community contributors, undocumented individuals also should be granted access to MediCali, and his organization is actively working toward making that a reality. Texas, however, chose not to expand Medicaid for its residents — leaving many without coverage; the sole benefit to this is that the uninsured in the state and other states that chose not expand its Medicaid program are not responsible for paying the penalty that's required of all others who chose not to acquire insurance.

Important takeaways from the conversation include:

  • Medicaid is available, and people should take advantage of its benefits.
  • Those from mixed-immigration families (undocumented and documented family members) should still feel free to enroll for Medicaid.
  • Individuals who are do not qualify for Medicaid or the ACA should seek out affordable health centers or apply for "catastrophic coverage."
  • To gain coverage under the "special enrollment period," one must apply within 60 days of the qualifying life event. Also, if you've gained your insurance through the marketplace, DO NOT cancel your plan if you've selected the wrong one. If you voluntarily cancel your plan, then you'll have to shop for insurance outside of the marketplace. And, unfortunately, that means that any tax credits or assistance that may have been due to you will no longer be available. Instead, try to stick with the plan that you have until the next enrollment period, which is this fall.
  • Remember to register to vote, because voting is the best way to make sure you're on top of laws that affect you and your health.

To learn more about Voto Latino's Health campaign, visit or Voto Latino can also be found on Facebook at, on Google Plus at, and on Twitter at

You can watch the entire hourlong hangout below.