Supreme Court Case Puts Health Insurance Aid for Latinos at Risk

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For 1.2 million Latinos who signed up for health care and got help paying for it, their coverage is at the center of a Supreme Court fight.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case challenging the federal subsidies provided people who bought health insurance in 34 states with federal government run health insurance marketplaces. NBC reported that the justices gave little indication how they might rule.

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 39 Latino organizations, issued a warning Wednesday on the case’s implications for Latinos.

“If the Supreme Court decides to take health care subsidies away from people, the real-life consequences would be disastrous and cruel,” Hector Sanchez, NHLA chair said in a statement.

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“This could have a particularly devastating impact in the Latino community, where we have worked so hard to bring down the number of uninsured,” said Sanchez, who also chairs the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

The lawsuit was brought by a 64-year-old limo driver who didn’t want to be forced to by health insurance as the law requires. He is arguing that if the subsidies to help people pay for insurance weren’t available he would not be forced to buy insurance and that the law only allows subsidies for state-run insurance exchanges.

Three Republican lawmakers wrote in an op-ed that the GOP has created a working group "to propose a way out for the affected states" if the subsidies are eliminated by the court.

The Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have calculated that 9.3 million people in the 34 states with federal marketplaces are at risk of losing insurance, including 1.2 million Latinos. In addition, millions more Latinos who have not enrolled in Obamacare would lose eligibility for subsidies, the NHLA said.

Latinos have the highest rates of uninsured and enrolling them in Obamacare has been seen as critical to its success because Latinos tend to be younger and healthier, helping offset costs for older, less healthy enrollees.

The court hearing follows a second enrollment period for Obamacare in which Latino groups refined their outreach to get more Latinos to sign up for insurance coverage.

Dr. Elena Rios, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association, said should the Supreme Court strike down the subsidies, “millions of Latinos and others will be competing for healthcare at clinics, hospitals and medical practices with dwindling charity care _ and more likely, will go without needed health and mental health care in our communities, spreading more infectious diseases.”

Jessica González Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said the ruling has implications for Latinas in their reproductive health. Latinas are more likely to be in child bearing years because they are younger than non-Hispanic white women. Latinas also have higher fertility rates.

“Latinas already face higher rates of cervical cancer incidence and death and unintended pregnancy. By denying affordable coverage, the court would be sentencing untold numbers of Latinas to needless suffering and struggle,” González Rojas said in a statement.