Outreach to Latinos on health coverage faces obstacles

Valentin Torres is the kind of resident Illinois officials know they need to reach if their effort to vastly expand health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act is going to succeed.

Torres, a truck driver and the sole provider for his wife and three children under 18, said his family has gone uninsured since 2005 when he lost the coverage he had through an employer.

At a state-organized outreach event he heard about on Spanish-language radio, Torres learned the family would be eligible for Medicaid under the health law’s expanded income rules. He planned to complete his application from home through abe.illinois.gov, a site for Medicaid applicants separate from the troubled federal website where private insurance plans are sold.

“I came here to get health coverage for me and my family,” said Torres, 44, who is bilingual but spoke to a counselor in Spanish. “Without insurance, you can’t afford to get sick.”

Federal health officials estimate that Latinos make up nearly a quarter of Illinois’ uninsured population, inspiring a special effort by state officials to spread the word about options available under the health law. To help raise awareness, Illinois is partnering with nearly 50 community-based organizations with close ties to immigrant populations.

My latest is in the Chicago Tribune. Read the whole shebang.