As a little girl, I always looked forward to January 6th. For many of my friends, their holiday celebrations had finished and Santa Claus was already at the North Pole busy preparing for the next holiday season. But for my sisters and me, and many others in the Latino community, the gift-giving wasn’t over since we still had Three Kings’ Day to celebrate. And this year is no different.
But, this year, as the gift-giving continues, there is one special gift that’s now available: the gift of access to health insurance coverage for millions of Latinos through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Every year, our family would celebrate the religious holiday by gathering at the home of one of our loved ones, exchanging stories about the holiday season, and enjoying delicious treats like hot chocolate and Three Kings’ bread. This year, if you gather with your family and friends to enjoy the Kings’ Bread, make it a point to talk about the importance of health insurance coverage and how they can find it at the Health Insurance Marketplace. Consumers can apply for coverage in the Marketplace in several ways: online at HealthCare.gov or CuidadodeSalud.gov; over the phone by calling the 24/7 customer service center (1-800-318-2596, TTY 1-855-889-4325 available in English and Spanish, and with translation in 150 other languages); working with a trained person in your local community (Find Local Help); or by submitting a paper application by mail. You can download the paperapplication form and instructions from HealthCare.gov.
At every Three Kings’ Day, we were always anxious to see who would find the baby Jesus figurine hidden within the bread! After all, that person was always expected to throw another party on the Day of the Candles on February 2! This year, for many of the newly insured, it will be the first time that they can find the security that comes with health coverage and lose the anxiety and worry that comes without it. In all, 6 million people have enrolled in Marketplace or Medicaid coverage since the Marketplaces opened for enrollment. At our Three Kings’ Day celebrations, let’s encourage those who we know are newly insured to call to make their first medical appointment by February 2! For consumers with questions about their new private insurance coverage that began on January 1, they can contact their insurance company directly or check out this tip sheet and read these consumer tips. By the time the party comes around, you can celebrate having made your appointment.
Last night, many children placed their shoes on their windowsill and went to bed, anxiously awaiting the morning to open their gifts. As a community, we can help give more gifts by working together to ensure that every eligible Latino who wants to enroll in Marketplace coverage by the end of the open enrollment period on March 31st, 2014, is able to do so—and enjoy the security and peace of mind that comes with having quality health coverage. This is a gift that will keep on giving! Happy Three Kings’ Day!
Don’t forget to follow the online conversation on the Affordable Care Act and Latinos by using the #OurSalud hashtag or following @HHSLatino
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Mayra Alvarez is the Associate Director,Office of Minority Health, US Department of Health and Human Services.