For about 20 minutes on Thursday, Latinos across the country had a chance to ask questions about Obamacare directly with President Barack Obama's point-person for the controversial program.
Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Health and Human Services secretary,took to an interactive Google Hangout was sponsored by advocacy group Voto Latino, a non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to engaging Latino youth to get involved in the political process. The national organization has been helping the Obama administration to increase awareness in the Hispanic community about the Affordable Care Act.
"At the front of the [Obamacare] website, people will be asked about their legal status, but that’s primarily because you won’t be entitled to a tax credit if you aren’t a legal resident.”
- Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Young Latinos, considered to be a key demographic for the administration's national push for the Affordable Care Act, had an opportunity to submit questions, which were selected and relayed to Sebelius by Voto Latino’s President and CEO, María Teresa Kumar.
One issue that raised concerns among the questioners was whether information about the legal status of enrollees from families with mixed immigration status would be used for deportation purposes by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security agency tasked with arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants.
Kumar mentioned that an ICE spokesperson had said it would not, a fact that Sebelius quickly confirmed: “That is correct. At the front of the website, people will be asked about their legal status, but that’s primarily because you won’t be entitled to a tax credit if you aren’t a legal resident.”
Sebelius added: “That [information] is totally secure, totally private. We have verification from the ICE folks that they intend to keep it very much that way.”
Whether or not young Latinos, particularly those illegally in the country or with relatives in such status, are sold remains to be seen.
According to the U.S. Census, about one in three Hispanics (31 percent) under the age of 65 are without insurance, almost double the 16 percent among the overall population. The White House itself said it needed more than 2.6 million young and healthy people to enroll to keep costs and premiums down for sicker and older people.
Thus far, enrollment totals are way below the administration's expectations . It remains unknown how many Latinos have signed up through Cuidadodesalud.gov, the Spanish-language Obamacare website, which wasn't fully functional until the first week in December, two months after the health insurance marketplaces were first offered.