Health Care

Why Obamacare's Success Rides on Hispanic Enrollment


It’s finally showtime for Obamacare. Tomorrow open enrollment begins for health-care policies on brand-new state-level insurance exchanges—marketplaces where insurers compete on price to provide health plans.

Some 40 million Americans are uninsured, and getting those people, particularly the healthy and the young, into the insurance pool is critical to the ability of the Affordable Care Act to deliver on its promise of affordability. About 7 million people are expected to gain coverage through the exchanges over the next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

If those in the 18-to-34 age group—the young invincibles, as they’re known—stay away, insurance premiums could rise overall and the critics of Obamacare will declare the whole effort an epic example of misguided liberal social policy.

How will we know if Obamacare has a real shot of succeeding? Watch Hispanic enrollment, according to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Foundation. If this powerful and growing demographic group buys insurance in a big way, the president will have reason to be optimistic about the future of his landmark legislation.

America’s 52.2 million Hispanics represent about 17 percent of the total U.S. population—and nearly half (47 percent) are under the age of 26. For the overall population, only about 35 percent are under 26.
 
 

 
 
 

Some 15.5 million Hispanics have no health insurance. That’s about 32 percent of America’s total uninsured population, if you exclude the elderly.
 
 

 
 
 
The states to watch are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Jersey, and Texas—all states where Hispanics account for more than 20 percent of the population.
 
 

 
 
 
If the news is bad out of these states, Republicans will rejoice. Then again, it’s worth remembering that the Hispanic vote helped deliver Obama a second term in the White House.

Bremner_190
Bremner is an assistant managing editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow him at @bxbremner.

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