Hispanic Caucus Demands Meeting With Trump’s HHS Over Latino Outreach Fail

Tom Williams/CQPHO
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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Thursday demanded an “urgent meeting” with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about the Trump administration’s plan for outreach to Latino communities ahead of Obamacare’s open enrollment period this fall.

Six Latino lawmakers requested the meeting, writing in a letter that they were “alarmed” by an exclusive report from TPM that HHS had completely abandoned its collaboration with an array of Latino groups that in past years had been partners on education and promotion of the Affordable Care Act.

“This coalition, composed of local and national organizations, has been instrumental in ensuring that millions of Hispanic families are able to navigate the health care system and enroll in health care plans,” the letter read, noting that coalition’s outreach efforts had helped 4 million Latinos gain health insurance since 2013, bringing down the number of uninsured Latinos by 20 percent.

“Data from four open enrollment periods demonstrate that in-person, in-language, and culturally competent consumer outreach, education, and enrollment assistance is the most effective way to engage the Latino community, especially those new to our healthcare system,” the letter continued.

The lawmakers—Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Ruben Gallego (D-NM), Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Raul Ruiz (D-CA)—also noted that outreach efforts are more important this year than ever, given that the Trump administration has slashed the length of the open enrollment window in half.

Espaillat told TPM he sees the abandonment of the Latino partnerships as part of the Trump administration’s overall goal of undermining the Affordable Care Act.

“It seems like, politically, their intention is to make sure it collapses so they can point the finger,” he said. “But if you take action to sabotage the current process and then allege the current process is ‘imploding’ or ‘collapsing,’ that’s not a fair statement to make.”

Espaillat, whose district includes parts of Harlem and the Bronx, said he’s hearing from Latino organizations on the ground that many people are confused about the status of Obamacare and whether or not they should enroll or re-enroll.

“This is a clear, premeditated attempt by the White House to dismantle the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “Their inaction could result in a severe collapse of the program. We want them to know: ‘You’re playing with people’s lives.'”

In the letter, Espaillat and the other Hispanic Caucus members requested an urgent meeting with HHS Secretary Tom Price, a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act, and demanded HHS “prioritize Latino outreach and enrollment efforts.”

“The ACA remains the law of the land,” the Caucus wrote. “As the agency tasked with launching a successful 2018 enrollment period, we should work together to ensure that HHS provides resources, information and properly coordinates with community stakeholders so we maximize access to health care for all eligible Hispanics and Americans.”

Read the full letter below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.
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