Latino Health

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Obamacare No Help to Undocumented Immigrants

Morgan Smith, a registered nurse with the Redwood Empire Food Bank Diabetes Wellness Project, conducts free diabetes screenings once a month at the Graton Day Labor Center.  The center serves as a conduit between its members -- many of whom are undocumented -- and health organizations around the region. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

Morgan Smith, a registered nurse with the Redwood Empire Food Bank Diabetes Wellness Project, conducts free diabetes screenings once a month at the Graton Day Labor Center. The center serves as a conduit between its members — many of whom are undocumented — and health organizations around the region. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

By Lisa Morehouse

California may lead the nation in numbers of people signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but there are still millions in the state without health insurance.

‘That leaves a lot of low-wage workers without any health care coverage.’
Some of the people most likely to remain uninsured are undocumented Californians. While they can buy health insurance with their own money, they are specifically excluded from receiving any benefits under the ACA. Community groups and non-profits in cities and towns across California work to fill in the gaps.

One of them is Graton, a small town in Sonoma County, about 20 miles west of Santa Rosa.

When I arrive at the Graton Day Labor Center a woman named Maria is standing behind a table filled with containers of homemade food. There’s oatmeal — with no added sugar, she tells me — tortillas and salsa, fish for tacos, and salad. Continue reading

California Exceeds Its Target for Enrollment in Obamacare Plans

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. (Max Whitaker/Getty Images)

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. (Max Whitaker/Getty Images)

With six weeks left to go in the first open enrollment period in Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, California has already exceeded its goal for the number of people it hoped to enroll into health care plans. As of February 15th, 828,638 people have signed up. The original goal had been 500,000-700,000 people by March 31. However, the state is still scrambling to get Latinos on board.

The rate of Latino enrollment showed signs of modest improvement in January. About 7 percent of people who enrolled in health plans through January 31 speak Spanish as their primary language. But the state is still far from mirroring the representation of Spanish speakers in California which is nearly 30 percent.

Overall, Latinos represent 21 percent of sign-ups through the end of January, while that demographic makes up nearly 50 percent of the state’s population. Continue reading

Missteps in Covered California’s Marketing Campaign to Latinos

Screenshot from an early Covered California TV ad targeting Latinos. The on-screen text says people cannot be turned down for pre-existing conditions, but consultants say that is not a key selling point for Latinos.

Screen shot from an early Covered California TV ad targeting Latinos. The on-screen text says people cannot be turned down for  pre-existing conditions, but consultants say that is not a key selling point for Latinos.

It’s been decades since the advertising industry recognized the need to woo Hispanic consumers. Big companies saw the market potential and sank millions of dollars into ads. The most basic do’s and don’ts of marketing to Latinos in the U.S. have been understood for years.

“It’s not a cohesive campaign targeted to Hispanics.”   

So when California officials started thinking about how to persuade the state’s Latino population to enroll in health care plans, they should have had a blueprint of what to do. Instead, they made a series of mistakes.

“It’s not a cohesive campaign targeted to Hispanics,” says Bessie Ramirez of the Los Angeles-based Santiago Solutions Group, a Hispanic market research firm that has consulted for large health care clients like HealthNet, Cigna and Blue Cross.

“Frankly, it seems obvious that the launch of this program seemed to have actually turned a blind eye to what the needs of this particular consumer were,” she says. Continue reading

Top Health Concerns for U.S. Latinos: Diabetes, Cost of Care

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Patti Neighmond, NPR

Latino immigrants in the U.S. say the quality and affordability of health care is better in the U.S. than in the countries they came from, according to the latest survey by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. But many report having health care problems.

About a third of immigrant respondents (31 percent) said they’d had a serious problem with being able to pay for health insurance in the past 12 months. And more than 1 in 4 had a serious problem affording doctor and hospital bills and prescription medicines.

But the health issue that Latinos said is most concerning for them and their families — whether they were born in the U.S. or immigrated here — is diabetes. Last year, in another poll, Latinos said cancer was the biggest problem facing the country.

Hispanic populations have a high prevalence of Type 2 diabetes. About 10 percent of Latino adults have been diagnosed with it or have “prediabetes,” a stage of the disease that often goes undetected. Continue reading

Many Spanish Speakers Left Behind in First Wave of Obamacare

CoveredCA_SpanishBy Daniela Hernandez, Kaiser Health News

In Silicon Valley, the executives and engineers who’ve helped build the Apple, Google and Facebook empires earn high salaries and enjoy a slew of perks, including stellar health benefits.

The clients of the Ravenswood Family Health Center, a community clinic in East Palo Alto just two miles away from Facebook’s sprawling headquarters, live in a very different Silicon Valley.

They’re the gardeners, nannies, factory workers and service staff who keep Silicon Valley homes and offices humming, the lawns manicured and the families comfortable.

They are also, in many ways, a microcosm of the population the Affordable Care Act was meant to help. Continue reading

Recruiting – and Retaining – Doctors in California’s San Joaquin Valley

Maureen Williams (L) seen here with her daughter Carol Baskin, is 95 years old. Williams recently moved away from Firebaugh, but she returns to see Dr. Oscar Sablan. "He saved my life several times," she says. (Photo: Lisa Morehouse)

Maureen Williams is 95 years old (seen with her daughter Carol Baskin) moved away from Firebaugh recently to be closer to family, but she returns to see Dr. Oscar Sablan. “He saved my life several times,” she says. (Photo: Lisa Morehouse)

By Lisa Morehouse

In 1999, in the tiny town of Five Points, 29 farmworkers accidentally entered a field that had just been treated with dangerous organophosphate insecticides. They started vomiting. The labor contractor in charge bypassed local hospitals and brought the crew to his own doctors 50 miles away in the town of Firebaugh. He simply trusted Marcia and Oscar Sablan more.

“We have seen a lot of other cases,” said Oscar Sablan, an internist, “and so we were familiar with the symptoms and we knew what to do.”

They had lots of atropine on hand, a drug used to treat poison victims if they go into respiratory or cardiac arrest. The farmworkers stripped and lined up to rinse the pesticides off in the clinic’s shower, built just for this type of incident. But with so many patients, Oscar Sablan had to recruit help.

“The firemen in town were able to get a kiddie pool and at least wash the people down,” he said.

Firebaugh is surrounded by crops, and the Sablans estimate that 75 percent of their patients work in the fields, like that labor contractor.

Marcia Sablan, who specializes in family medicine, explained, “He knew he could come here. He knew that we would take care of him, so be brought those 29 people over here.”

Patients have relied on the Sablans and the Sablan Medical Clinic for more than 30 years, since the couple moved to Firebaugh as young physicians in the National Health Service Corps. They say they wanted to practice where they were needed. Continue reading

Mentors Inspire Young Woman To Become Doctor For Low-Income Communities

Editor’s note: There was little in her background to suggest Vanessa Armendariz could become a doctor. But as she was growing up, mentors from similar circumstances made her dream seem possible. As part of our occasional series, “What’s Your Story?” Armendariz explains why she wants to be a primary care physician for people in low-income communities like her own.

Vanessa Armendariz says her goal is to go to medical school and become a primary care physician so she can help serve her community. (Photo Courtesy of Vanessa Armendariz)

Vanessa Armendariz says her goal is to go to medical school and become a primary care physician so she can help serve her community. (Photo Courtesy of Vanessa Armendariz)

Like any child, I was terrified of going to the doctor. But as a child of a low-income family in Stockton, my reasons were different.

I wasn’t afraid of a shot. Instead, I dreaded the hours-long waits and seeing my parents struggle to afford the visits. I couldn’t stand my family feeling unheard or helpless.

I wanted to change that for families like mine, so I decided to become a doctor.

But in high school, I was told that as a low-income Latina, my chances of getting pregnant were higher than going to college. My mother was pregnant at 16, and no one in my family had attended college, so it was hard to argue those statistics.

“In high school I was told that as a low-income Latina, my chances of getting pregnant were higher than going to college.”
Then, my parents were caught selling drugs to support our family. My mother continued to support my dream, but it seemed impossible. That changed when I found a program that introduced disadvantaged students to medicine through mentoring and visits to our regional health centers.

I interacted with physicians I could relate to. They came from low-income, minority backgrounds and were passionate about giving back. I realized that if they could do it, so could I. I excelled academically Continue reading

Insurance Marketplace Taking Shape: Will It Meet Needs of Latinos?

(Adrian Clark: Flickr)

(Adrian Clark: Flickr)

It’s off to the races now.

With the health overhaul (mostly) upheld by the Supreme Court, the January 1, 2014 deadline for the rollout of the Affordable Care Act is looming — in particular for the board of the Health Benefit Exchange. That’s the group tasked with developing an online marketplace where Californians will be able to buy health insurance. Yesterday, KQED’s Mina Kim attended the board’s first meeting since the ACA was upheld. Today I went to a meeting of the Latino Coalition for a Health California. It was sort of a point-counterpoint experience.

First, from Mina Kim. As she detailed on The California Report:

Hundreds of people packed the auditorium in Oakland yesterday where the Board meeting was held. At issue for many people was that health plans have a standard format so that it’s easy for consumers to compare costs and benefits.

Betsy Imholz, with the advocacy group Consumers Union, told Kim that this is a critical time for the exchange. “It’s where the rubber meets the road … figuring out what plans will be part of the exchange.” Continue reading