FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 27, 2014
Gebe Martinez, firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-731-9505, or
Kelsey Crow, email@example.com, 832-326-0990
HASHTAGS: #BySept5, #5DeSept
Sept. 5 Deadline Nears for Latino and AAPI Immigrant Communities Needing to Verify Obamacare Eligibility
Links to informational materials are available below.
Audio of briefing: www.nilc.org/document.html?id=1131
WASHINGTON — Latino and AAPI immigrants who bought health insurance through Obamacare must comply with the government’s request for more information about their citizenship or immigration status by September 5, and not get frustrated if they are having trouble submitting the information, health care and immigrants’ advocates said Wednesday.
Only a few days remain before the September 5 deadline for individuals who have been asked for additional documents to respond to notices. Failure to submit the requested information on time could mean a loss of health coverage through the Marketplace after September 30, advocates warned during a telephonic press briefing.
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). “The request for more information does not mean that these individuals are not eligible. There are many reasons for why this happened, including technical glitches and language barriers that were beyond the control of the applicants.”
More than 300,000 individuals in 36 states have received notices from the federal Marketplace. Consumers in Florida and Texas received the most notifications. Other states include: AL, AK, AZ, AR, DE, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, ME, MI, MS, MO, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, WV, WI and WY. States that run their own marketplaces may also be following the federal deadlines, or may have slightly different final deadlines and procedures. Of the 300,000, about 57,000 notices were sent to Spanish-speakers.
In many cases, families are just now realizing they have to respond, often because they received the initial three-page notice in English, did not understand the importance of the notices, or believe they are in compliance because they submitted the documents with the help of assisters when they originally enrolled in the health care program.
Elizabeth Colvin, director of Insure Central Texas (www.insurecentraltexas.org), a program of Foundation Communities, cited the case of a 57-year-old man in Texas who was born in the U.S. and has never had a passport. His driver’s license may be used in combination with another document, such as a birth certificate, which he lost years ago in a flood, and now he has to wait several days to receive a new certificate from the state. In another case, Colvin’s center helped a Spanish-speaker upload documents and qualify during the initial enrollment period, only to recently realize — after seeing the letter in Spanish — that the documents are being requested again.
“Even if customers are frustrated, it’s important for them to pay attention and respond so that they don’t lose their coverage,” Colvin said, adding that it is difficult to know when documents are successfully uploaded on the online system. “We haven’t been able to get confirmations for people, and that’s unsettling. We would like to find a way to reassure them.”
“Since the notices are in English, people do not know what they say or that they are important. They put them aside or throw them away,” added Amy Jones, Health and Social Services Director, Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition, Inc. (SEAMAAC) in Philadelphia, PA.
“At SEAMAAC, we are calling everyone we helped enroll to let them know to look for these letters in the mail, and to bring their documents in if they need help submitting or resubmitting,” Jones said. “We created a letter and translated it into Chinese, Vietnamese, and Nepali to send to families about these notices that we have not been able to reach by phone. We also created a flyer to get word out to the general community to understand the urgency of looking in their mail for these notices. This flyer was translated into Chinese, Vietnamese, Nepali, Indonesian, Karen-Burmese and Chin-Burmese.”
Advocates said they continue to press the Obama administration and, specifically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to eliminate the language barriers and system glitches that create difficulties for clients attempting to comply with the rules.
“It became clear during the first open enrollment period that navigators and assisters were essential in helping Action for Health Justice provide access to health care information and enrollment assistance for more than 540,000 Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders,” said Priscilla Huang, senior director of impact, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), a member organization of Action for Health Justice. “Along with many other groups, we continue to work with DHHS to address enrollment challenges, specifically increasing sufficient in-language notices regarding personal data and health care coverage.”
# # #