Threat Of Medicaid Cuts Sparks Latino Social Media Push

Today is the last day Senate and House committees will be able to give their deficit-reduction recommendations to the bipartisan super committee, which has been assigned the task of cutting federal spending $1.2 trillion to reduce the deficit. While Democratic state officials reached out in person to the 12-member committee this week, Jennifer Ng’andu, the deputy director of La Raza’s Health Policy Project, and other health policy advocates are using the power of social media sites such as Twitter to convey their concern  about protecting Medicaid from budget cuts.

In a teleconference on Thursday, Ng’andu explained how Medicaid recipients will “storm” the super committee with tweets–short messages that will directly target the super committee members. La Raza, FamiliesUSA and the National Urban League created a website that catalogues super committee members’ Twitter handles. Eleven out of the 12 members have Twitter accounts.

“The fact is that many people in the super committee aren’t taking phone calls or meetings,” says Ng’andu. “And communities of color, blacks and Latinos are disproportionately using social media, so we thought this is the opportunity to think about how we raise this dialogue in a forum where people are very active.”

La Raza along with other advocacy groups are encouraging the Latino community and Congress to focus on advancing Medicaid to help people of color with serious medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes and asthma. At last count, 17 percent of Medicaid enrollees with HIV are Latino. And a recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that Medicaid is the biggest payer for HIV patients, which tend to be low-income people of color.  (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Health groups such as the National Hispanic Council on Aging and Farmworkers Justice, with help from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are hosting a  conversation on Twitter to talk about the HIV/AIDS epidemic within the Latino community to mark the ninth annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) on Saturday. Today, participants can use the hashtag, #talkNLAAD, to ask health care experts questions about HIV and AIDS among Latino groups.

Ng’andu says social media sites such as Twitter are a natural fit for the Latino community. “Latinos in particular are a younger population. The median age is about 27, so you have more people who are engaging in Twitter and Facebook and these other forms of social media rather than email.”