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President Obama urges Latinos to sign up for health care coverage

President Barack Obama speaks about Affordable Care Act at The Fairmont Hotel on June 6, 2013 in San Jose, California. Obama was trying to spur people to sign up for health insurance in California, the nations largest health insurance market, with hopes of convincing younger people to enroll in order to keep the price down. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

President Obama made a personal plea to Californians and Latinos to sign up for coverage under the parts of his signature health care law already in effect. Speaking on Friday, he used his visit to California to highlight the state’s online health insurance marketplaces.

“States like California are setting up new, online marketplaces where, beginning on October 1st of this year, you can comparison shop an array of private health insurance plans side-by-side, just like you were going online to compare cars or airline tickets. And that means insurance companies will actually have to compete with each other for your business. And that means new choices,” President Obama said.

RELATED: Opinion: Latinos have everything to gain from the Affordable Care Act 

The president emphasized the potential benefits of the new California exchanges on Latinos, sprinkling and mentioning Hispanics throughout the speech.

“So about 2.6 million Californians — nearly half of whom are Latinos — will qualify for tax credits that will, in some cases, lower their premiums a significant amount,” he said.  ”Protections like allowing people up to the age of 26 to stay on their parent’s health care plans, which has already helped 6 million Americans, including [1 million] young Latino Americans.”

White House officials say California has the country’s biggest insurance market. With 6 million uninsured residents, it makes up a big part of the push to get residents to sign up for coverage.

As the law nears full implementation in 2014, Republicans have pushed back.  On Tuesday, Senator Marco Rubio proposed a constitutional amendment, “The Right To Refuse Amendment,” designed to undo the requirement that everyone buy insurance.

“We should put our faith in the American people to decide what goods and services they want to buy, not have Congress dictate it and have the IRS empowered to harass Americans to make sure they do it,” Rubio told the Florida Sun-Sentinel.

During his speech, President Obama dismissed criticism of his health care overhaul as “political talk” that was “geared toward the next election.” He insisted that the law would have a positive impact once fully in place. Hispanic families are among the groups that can most benefit from the health care expansion under the Affordable Care Act, with one in three Latinos uninsured. President Obama’s push for greater awareness on the healthcare act in the Latino community comes after a recent survey which showed that many Latinos don’t know some of the key aspects of the health care law.

RELATED: 10 things Latinos should know about the Affordable Care Act 

According to a recent Latino Decisions/Adelante con la Salud poll, more than half of Latinos- 54 percent- in Colorado could not name one specific aspect of the law. Only 18 percent knew that parents can insure their children until they turn 26, and just 14 percent knew that insurance companies can no longer discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.  A mere 6 percent of Colorado Latinos knew about health care exchanges- the kind operating in California that Obama praised in his speech.

RELATED: Over half of Latinos don’t know key aspects of new health care law, says survey

The Obama administration hopes that around 7 million people enroll through the exchanges. In order to keep costs down for the overall group, 2.6 million enrollees need to be younger, since they tend to be healthier. Nearly one-third of these young people live in California, Texas and Florida.

Helping President Obama with his outreach to promote enrollment among Latinos are the Spanish-language TV networks Telemundo and Univision. The White House says the law will give more than 10 million uninsured Latinos across the country the opportunity to afford health insurance coverage.

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Categories: National News