April 13, 2001

Hispanic Business Leaders Strongly Support Bipartisan Effort to Address the Uninsured

Washington, DC — The Board of Directors of the Hispanic Business Roundtable (HBR) today announced their support for the Fair Care Act sponsored by Representatives Dick Armey and Bill Lipinski.

"For more than a year we have called on the congressional leaders to put principles over politics and address the uninsured crisis in this country," said HBR President Mario Rodri-guez, CEO of Jonathan Grey & Associates in San Clemente, California. "Today, we are very pleased to see a bipartisan group of legislators working together to improve access to health insurance coverage. In fact, a lack of access to affordable health insurance disproportionately affects America's large and growing Hispanic community. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over one third, or 34.2 percent of Hispanics were uninsured, compared to only 12 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Only 38 percent of Hispanics working in small-to-medium size companies have health insurance compared to 63 percent for white workers.

Most Hispanic workers are heavily concentrated in the service industry and in small businesses —working for firms that do not or cannot offer them health insurance coverage— therefore, they are disproportionately found outside the normal channels of health insurance in this country. If employees do not get health insurance through the workplace, they will soon realize that it is prohibitively expensive to purchase it on their own.

"We urge Hispanic leaders from across the country to join us and LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) in supporting this legislation," Rodriguez said. "This support will be critical to make sure that the congressional leadership makes this a top priority in this session."

More than 80 percent of the uninsured hold jobs and work year-round, mostly in small businesses. The problem is that they are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but too poor to buy health insurance on their own, if their employer does not provide it. The Fair Care Act will provide greater equity, access, portability, and choice for those who are left behind in today's system. It will also create a true marketplace where individuals and families can choose a plan that best meets their needs.

"The Fair Care Act creates a new tax credit for the purchase of private health insurance, specifically for uninsured workers who do not have access to employer-based health plan. This way insurance will become more affordable, more people will become insured and consumers will have more choice and control," said HBR Executive Director Robert Deposada. "This legislation would truly make health insurance portable between jobs. There is a high degree of mobility in the Hispanic workforce, and this bill would help address the needs of this segment of our workforce."

"We are especially pleased by the changes and additions made to the original Fair Care bill, which go far to address concerns about employer substitution and adverse selection against higher-risk individuals," Deposada added. "State safety-nets or high-risk pools will help uninsurable and hard-to-insure individuals obtain good basic coverage, while Individual Membership Associations will help consumers afford coverage that is free of costly state benefit mandates. Offering community-based groups and churches the opportunity to pool their members in order to provide access to more affordable insurance will help reduce costs and serve as an extremely effective tool to reach the millions of uninsured working families outside the system. These changes make Fair Care even better for the uninsured, and we applaud them."

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