By Contributor on February 19, 2014

By Paul Ortiz

The Obama administration and state governments need to do more to get Latinos signed up under the Affordable Care Act.

A recent New York Times story noted that Latinos were lagging in getting coverage.

With a focus on California, the only state to track enrollment in its health insurance exchange by ethnicity, this story noted that Latinos, who account for nearly half of the state's uninsured population, make up less than 20 percent of those enrolled in the Covered California exchange.

On a national level, enrollment of Latinos in the state exchanges is critical for the viability of the Affordable Care Act. Latinos are a generally youthful population, and their participation in the insurance pools is vital to the long-term prospects of keeping insurance rates down.

The Affordable Care Act is deeply flawed in this regard, though, because it prevents undocumented workers from signing up for health care coverage. If their children are here legally, however, they have to get them coverage.

Given that the Obama administration is deporting Latino immigrants at a record level -- with almost 2 million deported since 2008 -- going to a government office is not exactly the first thing that an undocumented person wants to do.

And many Latinos who are already citizens or who are here with proper documentation are deterred from signing up by a hostile climate.

Hence, expecting Latinos to automatically sign up in large numbers in any of the state health care exchanges is illogical. This falls into the "you can't have it both ways" category.

You can't target a single group in the society one day and on the next day urge them to approach you with open arms.

Still, states and the federal government can take steps to see that more Latinos get the health care coverage they need.

In California, for instance, there weren't enough bilingual counselors available, and even two months after that exchange opened it still did not have written application materials available in Spanish.

Correcting this problem is easy: States should have the necessary staff and information at the ready.

At the federal level, it gets harder because the Republican-dominated Congress is so hostile to offering health care coverage to people who are undocumented.

But the Obama administration should stop its frenzy of deportation and should work more closely with Latino community groups across the country to get the message out that we all do better when everyone is covered by health insurance.

Paul Ortiz is director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and associate professor of history at the University of Florida. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

Copyright Paul Ortiz

Photo: "Three female doctors," via Shutterstock.

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Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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