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How Obamacare Supporters Are Enrolling Texas Latinos

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT
Jill Ramirez, director of Austin's Latino Health Care Forum, speaks to Latinos at an Oct. 5, 2013 car show about the federally-run health insurance marketplace.

A push to get people to buy health insurance through the federal marketplace has included plenty of visits from federal officials.

Last week, President Barack Obama told an audience of volunteers in Dallas that affordable health insurance is a pretty big deal in this state.

"There’s no state that actually needs this more than Texas," President Obama says. 

That’s because Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the U.S. – roughly 26 percent of the population. The President promised to fix – the digital health insurance marketplace for states, like Texas, that  aren’t running their own exchange.

"I’m here to tell you that I’ll be right there with you the entire way until we get this done and everybody in Texas and everybody across the country has the affordable care they need," he says.

But in Texas, the online marketplace is only part of what it will take to get people insured. The majority of the uninsured are Latinos, and the Spanish-language version of the marketplace – – is still not working. So when it comes to reaching Spanish-speakers, locals are doing a lot of the work.

Locals like Angelica Noyola from East Austin. She she’s not waiting for politicians to help her spread the word to Latinos about the marketplace.

"We’re like a big family, we’re the ones who are going to look out for each other. Don’t count on the government, don’t count on people outside of our culture to help us…somos familia," Noyola says. 

She’s been promoting the marketplace and possible tax credits through her work with the Latino Health Care Forum, a local nonprofit.

Noyola goes to several events each weekend to spread the word about the marketplace – like a car show where we caught up with her last month.

"Lowrider car shows, the jamaicas, health fairs, even school events. The Latino population – we’re a family-based population, so where our children are is where we’re going to be," she says.

In September, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stopped at Los Barrios Unidos, a community health center in Dallas. She talked about the importance of this outreach.

"Over 10 million Latinos will qualify for financial assistance to get affordable coverage, and I think our challenge is outreach into communities, getting people information in a language and with some cultural competency that they can understand," Secretary Sebelius says.

According to theCenter for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Health and Human Services Department is spending more than $3 million on an ad campaign to reach the Spanish-speaking audience.

Locally, the Univision TV station in Austin has been organizing phone banks. These involve breaks in local evening programming to tell viewers to call an 800 number on the screen that connects them with a marketplace expert from Foundation Communities. That’s the Central Texas nonprofit that helps low-income people with everything from tax filings to signing up for health insurance.  

The government is expected to release data on just how many people have signed up through the marketplace this week or next. That could tell the people trying to get the word out just how much more remains to be done. 

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