Could a botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act or ‘Obamacare’ provide an opening for Republicans to win over Hispanic “millennials?”
Some Latino Republicans believe so.
Hispanics make up 20 percent of the nation’s 80 million 18-to-29 year olds, or so called millennials. They are this generation’s largest minority and as a whole their families are the most uninsured in the United States. In fact, one-third of the nation’s 48 million uninsured are Latinos.
The White House needs 7 million young people — including millennials — to join the health care exchanges within the first year of the law to keep premiums low for everyone under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
But after more than a month of inoperable exchange websites, hundreds of thousands of people getting booted off their current health insurance plans and a congressional grilling of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, many are starting to ask if the GOP could turn growing frustration among Latinos over technical glitches into voter support in a demographic the party badly needs to remain politically viable.
“I think it’s a reality,” said Alfonso Aguilar, Executive Director of Latino Partnerships and Principles and former high-ranking immigration official under George W. Bush of the opportunity for Republicans.
“I think it’s going to be an issue for millennials who are entering the job market – many – who are not considering health insurance, but now have to purchase it,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar said embarrassing technical troubles over the ACA website provide an opening to discuss the fundamental issues with the law. He said it’s a good strategy to win over young Latinos who get healthcare from their employers or are forced to buy from a health exchange.
It won’t be so effective, said Aguilar, with Latinos who stand to gain insurance through Medicaid Expansion and subsidized health insurance exchange plans.
“It’s not enough to reject Obamacare,” he said. “I’ll admit Republicans haven’t been very good at this aspect.”
According to a Latino Decisions poll of 300 Hispanic adults in Colorado from Oct. 14 to 18, which will publicly unveiled on Monday, there is a slight downturn in the perception of the ACA but it remains wildly popular among Latinos.
Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions, a political polling firm surveying and analyzing the Latino vote, told Fox News Latino there is little chance this strategy will win Republicans any votes among the Democrat’s strongest base — young Latinos.
“It’s about the worst strategy you can come with,” Barreto said. “What Republicans want to do is not give out insurance to the community with the highest rate of uninsured in the country. It’s furthering the disconnect — this provides ways to make Obama look like a bad policy maker but I would not count on winning any votes.”
Republicans also point to President Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics, which has dropped 9 points in a week to 49 percent, according to a Gallup poll released this week. However, whether or not the problems with Obamacare will translate in an opening to reach the youngest of Hispanic voters is yet to be seen. Justin Velez, the National Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Chamber, believes Hispanic millennials are more tech savy and apt to becoming frustrated with technical glitches.
"It provides an opportunity to show, 'this is what happens when government overtakes private industry,' " Velez said. "If attacked the right way. It is difficult."
But ultimately, said Aguilar, criticism of the ACA alone will not make a real difference for the GOP, instead, the real game changer for Republicans and the Hispanic vote in 2014 and 2016 will be an integrated approach that begins with immigration.
“Immigration is a gateway issue,” Aguilar explained. “If you don’t get it right, it won’t matter if people are paying higher premiums. We saw it in the last election.”
For Aguilar and Barreto, re-elected New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offers Republicans the best chance to draw in Hispanic millenials: A balanced approach towards immigration reform that doesn’t alienate families, but still holds true to Republican principles.
“Republicans need to get a playbook that is closer to Christie,” Barreto said. “He is pragmatic and looks like a compromiser.”