A new study shows that although 2014 was the year that the rate of Hispanic children without health insurance fell to an all-time low — the year when principal parts of Obamacare took effect — these children still represent too large a share of the country’s uninsured young people.
From 2013 to 2014, an additional 300,000 Hispanic youth were insured, which decreased the number of uninsured children to 1.7 million. Researchers said the uninsured children rate fell 9.7%, which is about two percentage points below the prior year. US children’s overall rates decreased to 6% from 7.1%.
Lisa Gillespie writes for Kaiser Health News that the study was co-authored by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families and the National Council of La Raza, a civil rights and advocacy group for Hispanic Americans.
One of the causes for the improvement came about because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which offered the possibility for Hispanic adults to get health insurance. Once parents were able to be enrolled, they were inclined to sign their children up as well.
In states that offered Medicaid to impoverished adults, there was an average 7% uninsured rate for Hispanic children. This rate was approximately half the 13.7% average uninsured rate in states that did not extend Medicaid.
The Georgetown-La Raza report found that 20 states had lower rates of uninsured Hispanic youth than the nationwide average in 2014.
In 2014, 39.5% of the nation’s uninsured children were Hispanic. Of the entire population of US children who were under 18, 24.4% were uninsured, according to the report.
Mark Richardson of the Public News Service – Texas, quoted one of the study’s authors:
“We know Latino children are the fastest-growing segment of our entire population,” says Sonya Schwartz, a policy fellow with the Georgetown Center. “They’re growing from one in four children today, to one in three children by 2050. And Hispanic children will be our nation’s future doctors, teachers and workers.”
And Dr. Laura Guerra-Cardus, associate director of the Children’s Defense Fund of Texas, believes that there is still a long way to go. Texas, she notes, has the highest number of uninsured Hispanic young people of any state.
On the positive side, two-thirds of Hispanic kids in Texas who are uninsured are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP. She notes that her organization is increasing its efforts to find and enroll as many of these children as possible.
California, however, is the top state in expanding health coverage for Hispanic kids. Fatima Morales, a policy and outreach associate with the nonprofit group Children Now, says California has done everything the right way, reports Kenny Goldberg for KPBS-TV.
“There has been targeted outreach to Latino communities, and that’s been really key,” she said. “Working with community-based organizations is so important. There’s still about 323,000 uninsured kids in our state. And many of these children do currently qualify for Medi-Cal, but are unenrolled,” she said.
Starting May 1, California is set to offer Medi-Cal to approximately 170,000 Hispanic young people whose parents are in the US legally. This year the state will spend $40 million on the extension of Medicaid during this year and over three times that much annually in the coming years.
The worst state in terms of enrolling Latino youth for health insurance is Utah, says the study. 23.4% children in this demographic are uninsured — much higher than the national average of 9.7%. In Utah, only 8% of white children are uninsured.
Ninety-three percent of Latino kids in Utah are there legally and could easily qualify for government insurance. Children in the state can qualify for CHIP or Medicaid if their families earn up to 205% of the federal poverty level. Parents can only qualify if they fall between 55% and 133% of the poverty level.
“So there is a real gap,” Mandle said. “When parents don’t have insurance, you see their children are less likely to be enrolled as well, just because parents think that because they are not eligible, their children also are not eligible.”
Gov. Gary Herbert has suggested various formulas to expand Medicaid and to take advantage of money from ACA, and he has the support of the state Senate, but Conservatives in the House have blocked his efforts.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser (R-Sandy), however, expects the Legislature to revisit methods to expand Medicaid in the upcoming session.