Republican leaders have come out of the elections pledging to repeal Obamacare, under which rates of uninsured Latinos have dropped.
Much of the post-election discussion on Latinos and the Republican agenda has revolved on immigration reform and how the GOP will respond to executive action taken by Obama.
But the health care issue is one that also goes to the heart of needs in the community and takes on particular poignance as conservative groups and the GOP attribute their election night victories in part to improved support from the Latino commuinty.
The rates of uninsured Latinos have dropped since implementation of Obamacare, particularly younger and lower income Latinos, according to a Commonwealth Fund study. A second round of Obamacare enrollments is just around the corner.
On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said at a news conference “at some point next year we’ll move to replace Obamacare.”
Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell penned an opinion piece that ran in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, calling the Affordable Care Act a “hopelessly flawed law that the American people never supported.” The Republican Senate victories Tuesday put McConnell, R-Ky., in position to be majority leader when the next congressional session starts next year.
A Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends Project poll done in March showed Latino support for the Affordable Care Act split at 47 percent for and, against a drop from about 61 percent in 2013.
More recently, Latinos Decisions found in an election eve poll that 77 percent of registered Latino voters in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas and North Carolina wanted their state to accept federal money to expand Medicaid, which makes it possible for more low-income people to have health insurance. The paid for by immigration and Latino advocates and unions.
Four years out from the passage of Obamacare, it is no longer plausible to ask people how they feel about Obamacare generally, said Matt Barreto, a Latino Decisions pollster. He said questions have to be specific to the many components of the law, such as its mandate that children can stay on their parents’ policies until they turn 26, or Medicaid expansion.
Daniel Garza, the LIBRE Initiative’s executive director, said the election showed that Latinos are open to hearing the GOP’s take on issues. Up to now, too much of what they have heard has come from left-leaning groups and Democrats, because they've dominated in engaging Latinos, he said.
“They have controlled the dialogue on these policy issues _ minimum wage, Medicaid expansion,” said Garza, whose group formed in 2011 supports conservative principles and has funding ties to the Koch brothers.
“If we now change the conversation and we are having an even-sided conversation about what are the perils and pitfalls of Obamacare and the left is having their conversation, we’ll see who wins that,” Garza said.
States that have expanded Medicaid saw the shares of Latinos with insurance grow, while little changed in states that did not, according to the Commonwealth study.
Garza said even if large majorities of Latinos told Latino Decisions they support Medicaid expansion, it doesn't mean that policy is "a deal breaker." There can be a conversation about other proposals, particularly following GOP and conservatives' penetration of the Latino community during the midterm campaign season, he said.
But Barreto warned that alternative should probably come soon.
“For a rich, white man in the face of Mitch McConnell _ who has very good health insurance _ to say we want to repeal this and make it harder for you, is not going to win you any votes (with Latinos), in the future,” Barreto said.