10 Things Every Latina Needs to Know About the Affordable Care Act

This article was originally posted on Cosmopolitan.

Last year’s rollout of the Affordable Care Act may have had some bumps (including the federal government’s website woes as it launched HealthCare.gov), but it’s been effective: 375,000 more Latinas from 19 to 25 now have insurance than did before the law.

If you’re not one of them, however, you’ll have a chance to sign up soon enough. In fact, another round of open enrollment begins on November 15, meaning that if you don’t have insurance already (most likely through your employer, parents, or spouse), you must purchase it on the “Health Insurance Marketplace” (aka insurance exchange) before February 15, or pay a penalty of either 2 percent of your income or $325 — whichever number will be greater in 2015.

Here are 10 ways the ACA will affect you.

1. Latinos in general are most likely to be uninsured. One in 4 uninsured people in the U.S. who can buy a health plan on the federal health market website are Latino (10.2 million out of 41.3 million individuals), according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Sixty-two percent of them live in California, Texas, and Florida. Forty-six percent are between the ages of 18 and 35.

2. Even if you’re under 26, you don’t have to stay on your parents’ plan. “There are a lot of insurance plan choices on the Marketplace and at a very affordable cost,” says Daisy Morales, vice president of marketing and community outreach at the Hispanic Health Coalition. When you fill out an application on the marketplace, you’ll find out if you qualify for a private plan, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). That said, you can stay on your parents’ insurance until you’re 26, but this just means that if for any reason you’re not on their insurance — they refuse to cover you (it’s important to note that they are not required to cover you), you claim yourself as a dependent and therefore might be eligible for a lower-cost plan, or you dislike their plan — you have options.

3. You can get care early. Latinas are more likely to be obese, have high blood pressure, diabetes, and be diagnosed with cervical or breast cancer than the general population. Luckily, there are 22 preventive benefits in the new law specifically designed to help women get care early, including pap smear testing, tobacco use counseling, cervical cancer screening, domestic violence screening and counseling, STD/STI testing, obesity screening, diabetes screening, and nutrition counseling.

4. Your birth control is covered. The ACA mandates that all FDA-approved methods of birth control (including the IUDs Skyla, Mirena, and Paragard) be covered. That means most women are able to walk into the pharmacy and come out with the pill, patch, or ring without having to pay an extra cent, says Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

If you find you’re still paying a copay on your BC, it may be because your health care plan has been “grandfathered in,” meaning that it wasn’t required to switch over to ACA standards. Additionally, the recent Supreme Court decision ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby means certain corporations do not have to provide certain types of contraceptives if it goes against their religious beliefs. However, any company trying to drop or change this benefit has to notify employees within two months as well as provide a “description of the extent to which preventive services — which include birth control — are covered under the plan,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

5. You can get maternity and newborn care. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health reports that Latinas have a higher pregnancy rate than non-Hispanic white women as well as suffer more from postpartum depression. Health insurance plans must provide equipment and support for pregnant and nursing women, meaning your plan must cover the cost of breast pumps (either the cost of purchasing one or renting one). They also must provide counseling before and after your baby is born.

6. Your mental health screenings are covered. Latinas experience depression at twice the rate of Latino men and are more likely to suffer from depression than blacks and non-Hispanic whites, but among Latina women with a mental health disorder, only 1 in 5 contact their health care provider.

The ACA is hoping to change that by covering preventive services, such as depression screening for adults, with no cost. In addition, you can no longer be charged more for using mental health services, though depending on your insurance plan, your doctor will have to seek preapproval from your insurance company to extend visits past an allowed number of appointments.

7. Undocumented immigrants aren’t eligible for coverage, but their children may be.In 2010, there were 4.5 million U.S.-born children whose parents were undocumented, according to the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.

“Immigrant youth with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) aren’t eligible for health care coverage under the ACA, but some forward-thinking states are covering that gap through their own programs,” says Alvaro Huerta, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center.

In California, qualified immigrants (such as refugees, permanent residents, or survivors of trafficking), U visa applicants, and U visa-holders are eligible for insurance. In addition, the state says prenatal care, long-term care, breast and cervical cancer treatment, and certain other medical services are available — regardless of immigration status. In D.C., undocumented adults may still be eligible for health coverage through D.C. Health Care Alliance. New York also allows certain immigrants to receive health insurance and prenatal care.

8. There’s help for immigrant families. Mixed immigration and citizenship status families can apply for health insurance without worry that their information will be shared with immigration and customs officials.

9. You may be eligible for subsidies. Among Latinos who are eligible for Marketplace coverage nationwide, about 3.9 million may be eligible for subsidies to help lower costs on their monthly insurance payments and 4.2 million may be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP.

“A lot of young people qualify for tax credits to help lower the cost of health plans,” says Steven Lopez, manager of the Health Policy Project at National Center for La Raza. “Under the law, folks who make between 138 and 400 percent of the poverty line are eligible for tax credits that can be used to purchase a plan … oftentimes in the Latino community, we just think we can’t do it or we can’t afford it, not knowing that help is available.”

10. You can get dental too. Among Hispanics, 48 percent do not have access to dental insurance, according to a recent study. Besides medical plans on HealthCare.Gov and state health exchange websites, there are also dental plans. You don’t have to get dental coverage, but it’s an option.

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