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Latinos left behind by Obamacare

By Dr. Cristina Beato
updated 10:33 AM EST, Fri March 7, 2014
Alicia Martinez tries to sign up for a health care plan at a Miami Enrollment Assistance Center.
Alicia Martinez tries to sign up for a health care plan at a Miami Enrollment Assistance Center.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dr. Cristina Beato says Obama's Spanish-language health care site has been sloppy and often down.
  • She argues the Affordable Care Act will hurt, rather than help, many Latinos
  • Beato: Hispanics came to U.S. for promise of opportunity, but Obamacare is hurting that

Editor's note: Dr. Cristina Beato was born in Cuba and is a doctor and former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Department of Health and Human Services in President George W. Bush's administration.

(CNN) -- It wasn't until December 6 that Latinos could access CuidadoDeSalud.gov -- the extremely delayed and poorly translated Spanish version of HealthCare.gov. The thrown-together Spanish website has been a thorn in the President's side with the Latino community.

It's no surprise that support for Obamacare has waned among Latinos. A Pew Research poll found that last year disapproval of Obamacare among Hispanics increased 11 points from September 2013 to December 2013.

The White House is worried. Not enough Americans are signing up for Democrats' misguided health care law. And that means more problems -- most notably higher costs -- could be on the horizon.

So the administration is scrambling in the final three weeks of the enrollment period to sign up enough people to make the health care law work.

Dr. Cristina Beato
Dr. Cristina Beato

Yet the White House is ignoring an inconvenient truth: Obamacare is hurting far too many of our friends and neighbors in the Latino community. The problems go far beyond the demeaning and sloppy cuidadodesalud.gov.

One of the biggest fears the White House has is the low enrollment of millennials. Sixty-five percent of Latinos in this country are 22 to 35 years old, they are key to the success of Obamacare. If enough of them don't sign up for insurance plans, individuals may expect to face higher average costs.

But millennials say they aren't signing up because coverage is unaffordable -- or doesn't make sense for them. Fusion, a new English-language Latino TV network, illustrated the trouble with the health care law when they interviewed a 28-year-old Obama supporter who says he won't sign up for coverage because "he'd rather spend the money on his business, rather than spend it on insurance he says won't even help him that much."

Besides the affordability and enrollment problems for young people, our abuelos -- grandparents -- will be hurt by the new health care law as well.

Due to Medicare reductions under Obamacare, Medicare Advantage is being cut.

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The National Medical Hispanic Association has called the payment cuts "disturbing" -- and rightfully so. Thirty-eight percent of Latinos with incomes of $20,000 or less enrolled in Medicare Advantage may face higher fees and fewer benefits.

But the pain for our community doesn't end there.

Across the country, Obamacare is bound to take a toll on some of the 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses and 1.9 million workers they help employ. The law has made it harder for businesses to hire more workers, and full-time workers have seen their hours reduced to part-time.

Ruben Rivas, owner of a small business called H2Only Renewable Cleaning, told Telemundo, "There is no way we can pay or provide employees their health insurance, because there is no margin. If I do that, I have to close the doors -- then no one is going to work. Unfortunately, we are trying to convert our employees from eight hours to 5.5 hours (daily) as stated in the new law."

Hispanics came to this country in search of the promise of individual freedom and opportunity, but Obamacare is undermining that promise.

We do not need special sign-up programs or false assurances. We need real health care reform that actually expands access and lowers costs -- not "reform" that makes life more expensive.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dr. Cristina Beato.

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