Reaching out to Latino communities in Texas has been a major part of the Affordable Care Act implementation effort to get uninsured people enrolled. Now some organizers are hoping to use these new connections to get Latino voters to the polls.
The Texas Organizing Project, which works in low-income communities to promote access to health care, found that many Latinos cited health care as a top policy concern. So in Harris, Dallas and Bexar Counties, they are deploying over 200 canvassers and phone bankers to use this issue to get Latinos to turn out at the polls this November.
Latino voter turnout remains a major issue in the state, and will be key to the outcomes of many elections. In 2012, less than 40 percent of eligible Latino voters actually voted, compared to over 60 percent of white voters, leaving the Latino community underrepresented at the polls.But health care could be a motivating force in 2014.
Hundreds of thousands of Latinos in Texas have benefited directly from the Affordable Care Act. Of the more than 700,000 Texans who gained health care coverage in the 2013 – 2014 open enrollment period, over one-third were Latino. At the same time, Latinos are disproportionately impacted by Rick Perry and the Republican legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid. Of the roughly 1 million Texans stuck in the coverage gap between eligibility for Medicaid and eligibility for federal marketplace subsidies, nearly 600,000 are Latino. As a result, “the issue of Medicaid expansion resonates strongly with Hispanics, who make up a large portion of the state’s uninsured population,” according to the Texas Tribune.
Texas Tribune polling found that Latinos overwhelmingly support almost all of the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act. “What we see is a pattern of support among Hispanics for much better health care delivery,” said the Tribune’s pollster Jim Henson. “And, when necessary, for government to help improve that delivery.” Gallup polling confirms that many Latino voters rank health care as an important priority, even above unemployment and immigration.
It’s unlikely that any campaigns would have much success campaigning on Obamacare in this election cycle. But for organizers in Latino communities, messages about health care – and about Medicaid expansion in particular – could resonate enough to make a difference.