A Last Push for Obamacare Sign-ups — and Worries About Who Got Hurt
Nationwide, the Trump administration slashed spending to advertise open enrollment and sharply reduced grants to insurance counselors known as navigators who help people sign up for coverage. Here in New Jersey, the navigator budget was cut 62 percent, to about $720,000, from $1.9 million last year. The administration also cut in half the enrollment period for the federal insurance marketplace, used by New Jersey and 38 other states, to 45 days.
Just as the gains have helped blacks and Hispanics, the cutbacks are likely to hurt most in communities like this one, a small city in central New Jersey where blacks and Hispanics account for a majority of residents.
“We know how much the one-on-one assistance meant to getting people enrolled, particularly in communities of color, and I think in communities where English is not the primary language spoken,” said Maura Collinsgru, the health care program director for New Jersey Citizen Action, which joined other nonprofit groups in setting up a website, CoverNJ, to encourage enrollment despite the hurdles this year. “That’s really where there was a great deal of effort put over the last several years — we have lost that almost completely.”
Hispanics and African-Americans are still much more likely than whites to be uninsured. But the health law has markedly reduced racial and ethnic disparities in coverage.
Among adults age 18 to 64, the uninsured rate for Hispanics is now about 17.9 percentage points higher than for whites, down from a difference of 26 percentage points in 2013, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. And the uninsured rate for blacks is 4.6 percentage points higher than for whites, compared with a gap of 10.4 points in 2013.
Before the Affordable Care Act, large numbers of Hispanics were uninsured, in part because many had low-wage jobs that did not offer insurance. Even with the health care law, many Hispanics are ineligible for Medicaid and insurance subsidies because of their immigration status.
Still, the overall rate of Hispanics without health insurance is down to 16 percent, from 24.4 percent in 2013. The rate of uninsured African-Americans has dropped only slightly less dramatically, to 10.5 percent from 15.9 percent in 2013, according to the Census Bureau.