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September 27, 2010

Obamacare Side Effect: Hispanics Will Be Shortchanged

By

        With the economy and the midterm elections dominating the headlines, health care reform seems like a distant memory.  And yet, it was only six months ago that our country saw the private health sector relinquished to a massive federal takeover, all in the name of insuring an estimated 30 million Americans.

        When he signed the law, President Barack Obama promised we’d see a vast improvement of the current system. In fact, he penned a column in this paper saying that Hispanics would especially benefit. The “health care reform marks a crucial turning point for health care in the Latino community by targeting the very issues that are preventing them from achieving better health, and extending care to millions of Americans,” Obama wrote.

       Unfortunately, the President left out the part about senior citizens, especially Hispanic seniors, feeling the devastating side effect that will come from payment cuts to Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage, the private health plan option in the federal health program for the elderly and disabled, will be slashed by roughly $55 billion annually (by 2017) to pay for the costly entitlements in Obamacare.

       According to a new research paper by Heritage Foundation analysts Robert A Book and James C. Capretta, the cuts from Obamacare are expected to drastically reduce the number of future Medicare Advantage enrollees. This matters because low-income seniors, as well many Hispanics and African Americans, depend on these private plans more than other beneficiaries and will bear a disproportionate impact from a lack of options. In fact, when you compare them with average Medicare seniors, Hispanic seniors are twice as likely to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans.

       In fact, according to my colleagues’ estimates, nearly 300,000 Hispanics will lose or be dropped from their Medicare Advantage plan, or find that the plan they were in is no longer financially attractive, facing an estimated $2.2 billion loss in annual benefits. Plus, approximately 56 percent of New York seniors would lose their Medicare Advantage plans. So much for the President’s repeated promise that we would be able to keep our current health coverage if we liked it.

       As one of the largest percentages of the uninsured, Hispanics stood to gain, or lose, the most from the health care reform overhaul.  Consequently, the President and many of the most prominent national Hispanic advocacy groups were able to convince many Hispanics to support the reform despite the bill’s many disadvantages.  This is evident in the number of Hispanic Members of Congress who ultimately sided with the President.

       As we find ourselves in the home stretch for midterm elections, it is understandable that the President and his supporters would spin Obamacare’s passage as a win for the Hispanic community—at a time when so many Hispanics make up the bulk of the uninsured. But the evidence is clear that the health reform law has considerable flaws, and needs to be repealed immediately before any more damage is done.

 

Israel Ortega is a Spanish Media Associate at The Heritage Foundation.

First appeared in El Diario de la Prensa

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