As Trump threatens to repeal Obamacare, these ‘insurance godmothers’ are signing up Florida Latinos

MIAMI (AP) Salsa music blared from the food court in a rundown Miami shopping center as Latinos made their way to a kiosk and an office displaying signs for Obamacarewhere they hope to renew their health coverage plans before the end of the year.

Its places near this mall where former Democratic President Barack Obamas health care overhaul is more popular than anywhere else in the country, according to federal data. The region has also shifted from Democrats to Republicans in recent years, with Donald Trump hosting several rallies here as part of his outreach to Latino voters.

Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, has already promised renew efforts to repeal and replace the 2010 law something that will be felt strongly in the region and could potentially reverse some of the GOP’s shift among South Florida’s Latinos, experts say.

President Joe Bidens reelection campaign has seized on Trump’s remarks about Obamacare, which was enacted when Biden was vice president, as part of its broader effort to shape a widely expected rematch with Trump next year.

Health insurance is a necessity for everyone, says Odalys Arevalo, one of the managing partners of a health insurance agency serving Spanish-speaking clients in Miami. And I know that everyone who supports the Republican Party having health insurance through Obamacare will not support the fact that it will be taken away overnight. That is a fact.

Insurance agent Maria Collado, center, works with clients at a shopping mall kiosk operated by Las Madrinas de los Seguros, Spanish for The Godmothers of Insurance, at a shopping center in Miami, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Arevalo and his business partner, Mercy Cabrera, started the enrollment centers to help people navigate the Affordable Care Acts insurance marketplaces and remember how some Cubans who say no, no will leave , no, after seeing the name Obamacare, coined by Republicans who oppose the overhaul as an expensive government takeover of health insurance.

Insurers can no longer deny coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions, prompting many Latinos to consider it, Arevalo said. In the following years, women began enrolling by the thousands, earning the nickname Madrinas del Obamacare, or godmothers of Obamacare, evoking the important role godfathers and godmothers play in Latino culture. .

They have rebranded themselves as Las Madrinas de los Seguros, or godmothers of insurance, because they offer other plans. But they continue to feature the word Obamacare on their office walls and in their ads.

An image of "Insurance Godmothers" Odalys Arevalo, right, and Mercy Cabrera, hang on the wall as insurance agents work at Las Madrinas de los Seguros (Spanish for "The godmothers of Insurance," a health insurance agency that serves Spanish-speaking clients, at a shopping center in Miami, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

A photo of Insurance Godmothers Odalys Arevalo, right, and Mercy Cabrera, hangs on a wall as insurance agents work at Las Madrinas de los Seguros (Spanish for The Godmothers of Insurance, a health insurance agency that serves clients who speak of Spanish, at a shopping center in Miami, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Obamacare is visible all over Miami on advertising flags, businesses and bus signs. Federal data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services indicates how widely it is used here.

About 3.4 million Hispanics are signed up for insurance through the health law. Florida leads the way in enrollment with more than 3.2 million consumers choosing a plan during last years enrollment period from November 2022 to January. Miami-Dade is the most populous county on record, with about 750,000 consumers, or more than a quarter of the total population.

Florida is also one of 10 states that fought to expand Medicaid coverage under the health provision of the law.

The two Zip codes with the most sign-ups last year and this year were in Doral and Hialeah, hubs for the Venezuelan and Cuban communities just north of Miami and common stops for visits and rally of the Trumps.

Last month, Trump posted on his Truth Social social media site that Obamacare costs are out of control, plus it’s not good Health Care. While he said he was looking at alternatives, he did not share any plans. But Trump said he would not give up on ending it in commemoration when the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., then-presidential efforts to repeal the law in July 2017.

During Trumps administration, Republicans were able to pass a provision that reduced the penalty for not having health insurance to zero, the most unpopular part of the law and something people in South Florida are saying which relieved them of the plans.

The Miami Herald, in a recent editorial, called Trump’s plans echoed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another 2024 GOP presidential candidate who is deeply out of touch with voters.

Bidens campaign quickly mobilized a response and the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, Nikki Fried, specifically mentioned one area where Obamacare is popular.

Miami-Dade County will be the hardest hit by Trumps anti-health care agenda, Fried said.

According to a KFF poll conducted in May 2023, 59% of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act. The same poll by a nonprofit organization focused on health policy found that 66% of Hispanics say they have a favorable opinion of the law.

According to APVoteCast, a broad survey of US voters, 62% of 2022 midterm voters in Florida said it should be the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that everyone in the country has health care coverage. About one-third of Florida voters in the 2022 midterm elections said that’s not what government should be doing. Among Latino or Hispanic midterm voters in Florida, 77% said ensuring health care for all should be the responsibility of the federal government, while 1 in 5 said it should not.

Zulina Ruiz, a 72-year-old retired lawyer from Venezuela, said she quickly learned about Affordable Care Act options after she arrived in the US in 2017. She said she is particularly grateful to have access to drugs to treat his high blood pressure. Green-card holders, refugees and other migrants who have been granted temporary protected status or recently arrived on humanitarian parole also qualify for coverage under the law.

This is very important for me. I don’t think a candidate can just make this program disappear, she said. They will leave millions of low-income people without insurance.

Ruiz became a US citizen in May, but is not registered with any party. He doesn’t know who he will vote for next year.

I still haven’t decided, and we don’t have official candidates yet, Ruiz said, adding that he still feels more politically connected to Venezuela. Much of the growing support for Republicans in Miami owes to Trumps record antagonizing socialist leaders across Latin America, including the White House’s imposition of sanctions on Venezuelan officials.

But health policy is a top priority for me, Ruiz said.

Biden’s campaign has run advertising in battleground states contrasting his efforts to lower drug costs with Trump’s renewed promise to repeal the health overhaul. The ad campaign does not include the Florida markets.

Arevalo, one of the godfathers of Obamacare, thinks Miami voters may not necessarily approve all the positions of the candidates they ultimately back.

But until a local verdict on Obamacare, and despite initial misgivings about it, the program grew with people in Miami once they understood it, he said.

When Trump was elected, some people came and said they wanted nothing to do with Obamacare. We said Obamacare, Trumpcare, whatever, he said what they told the people. The important thing is that everyone has access to health insurance and they can take care of their health.


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