"It's a phenomenal step forward for the Hispanic community," she said.
Small Business Fares Well
Hispanic-owned businesses also stand to benefit.
With 98 percent of Hispanic-owned businesses employing fewer than 50 people, the legislation's effect on small business is of primary importance to many Hispanics.
Over the past decade, the meteoric rise of health care costs has significantly hampered the ability of small businesses to offer health benefits to their employees.
Since 2000, the proportion of small businesses offering health benefits has dropped more than 20 percent, from two-thirds to less than half. The bulk of that drop has occurred over the past three years.
The new law benefits small businesses in several ways, Mr. Palomarez of the chamber said. First, it allows them to purchase insurance through the exchange. Also, small businesses that opt out still stand to benefit, as most of their employees will qualify to purchase individual plans on the exchange, improving the ability of those businesses to stay competitive with larger companies.
Finally, and most immediately, all small businesses offering health benefits to their employees will qualify for tax breaks.
"They can avail themselves this year of essentially free money," David Ferreira, the chamber's vice president for government affairs, told Hispanic Business magazine.
Mr. Ferreira said one disappointment to the chamber is how the law requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide coverage. The chamber had hoped that the threshold would be set at 100 employees -- or, better yet, dropped altogether.
But in terms of how the bill affects Hispanic-owned businesses, the difference between 50 employees and 100 employees is relatively slight, he added. While about 99 percent of all Hispanic-owned companies employ fewer than 100 people, about 98 percent employ fewer than 50.
"We're fighting over inches at this point," he said.
The new law stands to benefit U.S. Hispanics in many ways, advocacy groups said. It comes with a huge prevention component, meaning, for instance, that doctors will have financial incentives to discuss healthy lifestyles with patients.
This is particularly beneficial for Hispanics, who suffer disproportionately from obesity, diabetes and heart disease, Dr. Rios said.
The new law also means doctors and nurses in many areas of the country will have to undergo cultural competency training, which could include taking Spanish classes or hiring translators.
"It exists now, but not like with the court system," Dr. Rios said. "The health care system has been light years behind. This is going to bring the system into the 21st Century."
As it is, she added, just 5 percent of the nation's doctors and nurses are Hispanic -- a percentage that the National Hispanic Medical Association would like to see grow.
The new law also increases to 26 the age in which young people can stay on their parents' plans. The current age varies from state to state, but in general coincides with the college years of middle-class families, which generally end around age 22, Dr. Rios said.
Also experiencing some improvements are the citizens of the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which received about $1 billion to establish an exchange and provide more affordable care.
"In the end, we think there are key gains that give us a foundation to be able to extend affordable insurance to many Latinos and immigrants across the country," Ms. Ng'andu said. "The bill was by no means what we hoped to have, but it's something we believe sort of lays the foundation for a better health care system
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