To address a culture gap that tends to separate physicians from Hispanic patients, the House bill would require interning doctors to log a certain amount of hours in clinics. As is, they need only train at hospitals.
"Training at the UCLA hospital is very different than being in a community clinic in East L.A.," Ms. Rios said. "The idea is to train doctors to be more responsive and to be more culturally competent."
The bills would also nearly double the budgets of federally funded community health centers serving the poor. These centers are typically located in urban areas and isolated rural areas, and cater to the uninsured and under-insured. Oft en, they treat illegal immigrants.
The proposal is to add at least $2 billion a year for half a decade to the current $2.5 billion annual allotment for the nation's community health centers.
If approved, the extra money would come in especially handy for struggling states like cash-starved California, which last year alone was forced to slash its budget for primary care for the working poor by a staggering 30 percent.
"The truth is, the last year and a half to two years have been extremely challenging," said Mr. De la Rocha of AltaMed, the network of community health centers in Southern California.
"We're talking double-digit unemployment rates. In some places where we are working, it's in the 20th percentile."
The task of melding the bills could occur with surprising speed. In early January, Democratic lawmakers discussed the possibility of forgoing a formal conference committee process in favor of a short-cut in which the leaders of the two chambers negotiated changes, then sent the proposed bill for approval to the House and Senate.
Also paying close attention to the wrangling on Capitol Hill is the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which represents 200 regional Hispanic chamber organizations across the nation.
The chamber's main aim is to help Congress find a way to curtail costs to small businesses.
While the systemic costs of healthcare are skyrocketing at roughly 7 percent a year, premiums are soaring at an even faster 9 percent annually, said the chamber's Mr. Ferreira.
"It is not unheard of that a business has to pay nearly double what they paid just a year before to provide health insurance for their workers," he told HispanicBusiness magazine. "Bad stories abound about how small businesses are being drained of their resources."
The solution, Mr. Ferreira said, is to create exchanges in which small businesses can participate. On this measure, he is thus far satisfied with both the approved House and proposed Senate bills.
However, those exchanges, if approved, wouldn't be put in place until at least 2015. In the meantime, if a new law passes soon, small businesses offering health benefits to their workers will immediately qualify for tax credits, Mr. Ferreira said.
On the other hand, the penalties for failing to provide coverage would be severe.
Under the Senate version, businesses with more than 50 employees that opt not to provide coverage would pay a fee of $750 for each employee. Under the House bill, non-small businesses that fail to provide coverage would pay a fee of 8 percent of their payroll.
All told, while few Hispanic groups view the House and Senate bills as ideal, advocates say both versions represent a major milestone in American history.
"The truth of it is, when I first started working at what used to be called the East L.A. Barrio Free Clinic, there was a huge line of people waiting to receive care," Mr. de la Rocha said. "I've been working for 32 years to shorten that line. I think we finally have a way that the line will be dramatically impacted."
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