« October 2012 Issue

The Latino Media Project Shows the Promise of the ACA in Colorado

In the United States, Latinos face persistent health disparities when it comes to health insurance coverage and access to care. Close to 32 percent of Latinos are uninsured, a rate that is double that of the next closest racial or ethnic group. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) takes significant steps in addressing these inequities, especially on the issue of expanding coverage. However, just as with many members of the public, there is a lack of awareness in the community of just how much Latinos will benefit. This need for public education about the opportunities in the ACA for Latinos led to the creation of the Latino Media Project.

The idea behind the Latino Media Project is to use the success of Massachusetts health reform as a way to show how the ACA will greatly expand Latinos' access to affordable care. Because health reform essentially eliminated disparities in access to coverage for Latinos in Massachusetts, advocates and policymakers in many states are interested in replicating this result. The Latino Media Project combines opinion research, coalition building within and outreach to the Latino community, and a robust media strategy including radio, television and print in both English and Spanish. This past July, in partnership with the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI), the Latino Media Project was piloted in Colorado. 

In Colorado, Latinos have the highest uninsured rate among the state's racial and ethnic groups, at around 27 percent of the state's population. And while 60 percent of Colorado's Latinos say they need better access to health insurance and health care, support for the ACA is low. However, research also shows that when knowledge about the ACA rises, so does Latino support for the law. With support from Community Catalyst's Affordable Care Act Implementation Fund and other national partners, the goal of the Latino Media Project was to seize the opportunity to educate Coloradans about the benefits of the ACA for Latinos in Colorado.

From the beginning, leadership and support from the community was key. CCHI partnered with an existing health care engagement project, Adelante con la Salud: Latino Health Care Engagement Project, and the team worked together to form an outreach plan. The biggest component of the plan was a community engagement and media tour by Carlos Solis and Maria Gonzalez Albuixech from Health Care for All Massachusetts (HCFA). HCFA, a state-based consumer advocacy organization, runs a consumer assistance program for Massachusetts consumers called the HelpLine. As a HelpLine counselor, Carlos has personally worked with hundreds of Latinos in Massachusetts to answer their questions about health insurance options and get them enrolled in coverage. Maria, HCFA's Communications Director, brought her skills in both English and Spanish media to the effort.

Together with Adelante con Salud and CCHI, Carlos and Maria had an extremely successful trip to Colorado and engaged with hundreds of Coloradans through community events and media. Latino activists and organizers, Colorado policymakers, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region 8 Director Marguerite Salazar attended events to hear Carlos tell stories about the impact that Massachusetts health reform. As Melanie Herrera Bortz of Adelante con Salud explains, "We are a storytelling culture, and that's what Carlos did. He told stories. That just sold everyone right there...it was really powerful to hear the personal stories that Carlos shared." In addition to telling these stories at community events, Carlos and Maria did a series of radio and television interviews for both English and Spanish-speaking outlets, including Despierta Colorado, a morning program on Univision. 

Storytelling became an important theme of the Latino Media Project, and crucial to its success. Carlos and Maria were able to share not just accounts of individuals who had been helped by the Massachusetts law, but also the broader story of how transformative health reform can be for a state's Latino community. From how to operate a consumer assistance program that is culturally and linguistically appropriate to engaging Spanish-speakers through the media tour, the Latino Media Project was a public education success that Community Catalyst hopes to replicate in other states with high numbers of uninsured Latinos.

Fortunately, health care outreach to Latinos will continue in Colorado. In part because of their excellent existing outreach work and their work on the Latino Media Project, Adelante con la Salud was awarded a $558,800 grant from The Colorado Health Foundation to educate Colorado Latinos about the ACA. The bilingual campaign will combine earned, paid and social media with grassroots education and outreach. Congratulations to Adelante con la Salud, and it is great news that even more Coloradans will benefit from their work and from the ACA.

O N   T H E   W I R E

Robert Restuccia, executive director, joined a Boston Globe panel to discuss next steps for moving forward on Affordable Care Act implementation after the Supreme Court ruling on the law.

David Jordan, Dental Access Project director, explained to the Minnesota Star Tribune that states across the country are looking to the dental therapist model in operation in Alaska and Minnesota to help expand access to the 82 million Americans without dental care.

Jessica Curtis, Hospital Accountability Project director, underscored the importance of strong federal regulation in protecting consumers from crippling medical debt and unfair hospital billing and collection processes in The Boston Globe and in Modern HealthCare.

The New England Alliance for Children's health released a policy brief on The Sickle Cell Treatment Act on opportunities for advocacy to fully implement the law and draw down additional Medicaid matching funds to conduct public outreach and education about the disease.

Anna Dunbar-Hester and Eva Marie Stahl, policy analysts, laid out the impact the Affordable Care Act will have on millions of Americans-highlighting key benefits for consumers and explaining how the law strengthens the safety net-in the Boston Bar Association's Health Law Reporter

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