For too long our health care system has failed too many Americans, with Latinos among those most affected. Nearly one-third of all Latinos are uninsured-the highest of any racial or ethnic group. Latinos have persistently had trouble accessing basic health care, while suffering higher rates of obesity and chronic illnesses like heart disease. High costs, a tough economy and a system that allowed insurance companies to raise rates, reject claims, and deny coverage without warning, only meant things were going to get worse if we did nothing.
But the passage of the new health care law - the Affordable Care Act - 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. Already, the new law is covering people who have been locked out of the insurance market because of a preexisting condition. The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program is helping employers offer health benefits to their retirees. And small businesses are eligible for tax credits this year to make it easier for them to provide coverage to their workers.
And in the next few years, as reform takes effect, the Affordable Care Act will expand Medicaid and create new, competitive health exchanges, where individuals can choose from a range of affordable, quality health plans. And new tax credits will make it easier for families to afford coverage. Taken together, these measures will extend coverage to 32 million people who would have been uninsured, including millions of Latinos.
The law also takes steps to end the worst insurance company abuses and empowers consumers. Starting this month, the new law prohibits insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get sick or make a minor mistake on an application, eliminates lifetime limits on the amount of care you can receive on your plan, and prohibits insurers from denying children coverage because of a pre-existing condition like diabetes. It also requires Medicare and all new private insurance plans to cover preventive care like regular check-ups, cancer screenings, and immunizations like flu shots - without charging you out of pocket costs.