Obamacare’s Latino Push May Give Democrats Political Edge

Alison Vekshin, Bloomberg, September 30, 2013

The battle over Obamacare is taking on political importance as Democrats hope a successful roll-out among Hispanics will further bind those voters to the Democratic Party and undermine Republican efforts to build more support before the 2016 presidential election.

In California, where Hispanics will outnumber whites within a year, backers of the Affordable Care Act are ramping up outreach in places like Richmond, a San Francisco Bay Area city whose population is almost 40 percent Hispanic and where about 18 percent of residents live below the poverty line.

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Hispanic voters backed Barack Obama over Republican challenger Mitt Romney 71 percent to 27 percent in 2012.

About 61 percent of Hispanics approve of the health-care law, compared with 29 percent of whites and 91 percent of blacks, according to a Pew Research Center and USA Today survey conducted Sept. 4-8. {snip}

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A threatened U.S. government shutdown and a growing list of delays involving new exchanges may not make potential enrollees more confident. While the shutdown won’t stop the exchange roll-out, which is largely funded through mandatory appropriations that can’t be curtailed by congressional inaction, it’s an open question whether it will lessen public enthusiasm to enroll. {snip}

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“Ultimately, a large number of Latinos will enroll and they’ll overwhelmingly like it,” Gary Segura, a political science professor at Stanford University, said in an interview.

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The $1.4 trillion Affordable Care Act seeks to extend coverage to most of the nation’s 50 million uninsured. Coverage begins in January, and most people will be required to have public or private health coverage or pay the higher of 1 percent of their annual income or $95, a penalty that grows to 2.5 percent of income or $695 by 2016. A network of insurance exchanges where consumers can buy subsidized plans, the core part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, opens tomorrow.

Latinos represent 46 percent of the 2.6 million California residents eligible for subsidized coverage, said Santiago Lucero, a spokesman for Covered California, which runs the state insurance exchange.

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