Opinion: What's Next for Health Care?

As of late, Republicans continued their effort to repeal "Obamacare" for the 31st time, despite the fact that the highest court in the land upheld the law. Such efforts to dismantle the law put Latinos at risk of losing key benefits to their health, as they are most likely to be uninsured and are part of the fastest-growing population in the U.S. Making sure that this population and other communities of color can afford health care is imperative to the nation's growth given its rapidly changing demographics.

Obamacare delivers for Latino families. It makes quality care more affordable and accessible, and it increases the financial security that comes from knowing that when people get sick, they will be able to afford the health care they need.

Although it will not be fully implemented until 2014, the law is already helping millions of Latinos. First, young adults may now remain on their parent's insurance policy until age 26: More than 700,000 Latinos have already taken advantage of this important change. Young Latinos who change jobs, move, and/or become financially independent are no longer at risk for losing coverage. As these young Latinos grow healthier, they will be able to contribute to the American economy, making our nation stronger.

Latinos will also enjoy increased protection to their checkbooks. Obamacare will stop 12 million Latinos from having to make decisions about life-saving treatments (e.g., cancer and chronic diseases) based on cost because insurance companies will no longer limit the total amount they will pay for care.

Also, in 2011 seniors saved an average of $631 on their prescription drugs. By 2021, this amount will grow to $2,386.

Obamacare is also good news for the 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses and the 7.5 million Latinos who are employed by small businesses, because the small-business tax credit will help individuals and small businesses pay for health insurance. Overall, Latinos can look forward to not having to sacrifice their health over monetary concerns.

Another key provision of the law that has already taken effect is the one that ensures that children with preexisting health conditions are covered. In the past, insurance companies routinely denied coverage to this very vulnerable group. Once the law is fully implemented, it could benefit up to 7 million Latinos who, before Obamacare, could be denied coverage or receive higher premiums for their existing health conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

Coverage like this is especially important in the Latino community, considering 11.8 percent of Latinos over 20 have diabetes and an alarming half of all Latino children born in 2000 are at risk of developing diabetes.

Obamacare has also provided preventative services at no cost, such as cancer screenings, diabetes tests, and annual wellness visits for more than 10 million Latinos but now more are expected to receive this type of care.

Besides the tangible benefits that Obamacare offers, it also makes key investments in entire communities. It will invest $11 million to create health centers with bilingual caregivers. More than one-third of patients served by community health centers across the country are Latino. Community health workers, better known as promotoras, will be able to double the number of patients they see by 2015. Obamacare also paves the way for more people of color to become health care professionals, which will increase diversity and cultural competency across the health care system.

Dismantling Obamacare will dismantle the progress toward healthier lives for Latinos and other communities of color. Instead of spending hours and wasting taxpayer money trying to repeal a law that will benefit millions, we should be instead focusing on how to help create jobs, improve the economy, and strengthen our health care for all Americans, Latinos included.

Vanessa Cardenas is director of Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress.

The Center for American Progress is an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action. We develop new policy ideas, critique the policy that stems from conservative values, challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter, and shape the national debate.

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