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Yesterday, October 1, 2013, marked a turning point in the history of the U.S. health care system as we know it. Eligible Americans and residents alike were able to begin enrolling in affordable health insurance plans as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, in honor of President Obama who signed it into law.

As a public health researcher, who has devoted many years to better understand the challenges that Latinos in the United States face as they try to access health care services, the reality of affordable health insurance coverage does not go unnoticed. It is estimated that nearly 16 million or three in ten Latinos in the United States are uninsured, despite the fact that about 76 percent of Latinos in this country are U.S. citizens; and that 7 in 10 Latinos live in families with one full-time worker. The main barrier deterring Latinos from having health insurance coverage is cost since many are employed in low-wages jobs which limit their access to employer-sponsored health insurance plans. The good news is that up to nine million Latinos are expected to gain health insurance of some form thanks to the ACA.

Being uninsured, limits an individual’s access to needed health care services. For example, half of all Latinas do not have a regular doctor, and one-third of Latinas delay or avoid medical care because of the cost. The ACA is one step to closing those disparities in access to health care—and Planned Parenthood is committed to expanding access to affordable care. Under the ACA, insured Latinas will be able to access preventive care with no copays and they will also have increased access to contraception (which 99 percent of all sexually active women have used at some point in their lives), in addition to other provisions.

As a trusted, reliable provider, Planned Parenthood serves more than 600,000 Latinos every year, many of whom lack health insurance. But as of yesterday, uninsured Latinos are able to purchase insurance through the new health exchange marketplaces. That doesn’t mean they won’t face some of the same challenges as in the past: lack of information, complex eligibility system, and language issues.That’s why Planned Parenthood is dedicated to working with the Latino community to ensure that as many members as possible of our community know about the benefits. The ACA and the immense benefits it brings are good for our families, good for our communities, and good for the United States.

We all know someone—tía, abuela, hija, prima, vecina, hermanos or amigos— that need accessible, affordable health care. This Hispanic Heritage Month, remember that information is power, and share not only the benefits of the ACA, but also the benefits of keeping ourselves healthy, for our families, and for ourselves. And remember that Planned Parenthood is a key resource that will be helping you every step of the way, no matter what. Pase lo que pase.

Tags: Obamacare, Obamacare Works, Latinos for Planned Parenthood, Latinos

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