According to a new report by the Center for American Progress 42.4 percent of Latinos of Central American descent and 33.6 percent of Latinos of Mexican descent are uninsured. Collectively, 30.7 percent of Hispanics lacked health insurance during the year 2010, compared to 11.7 percent of the non-Hispanic whites.
The disparity is not a new one; in 2000, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation issued a report indicating Hispanics were more likely than other demographics to lack access to employer-based health coverage, a fact complicated by low levels of education and thus poor job opportunities.
The lack of health coverage is still a concern for minorities, especially Hispanics, who are more likely to suffer from a number health issues including diabetes, hepatitis, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, cancer, stroke, liver disease, and respiratory ailments. In order for these issues to be addressed, access to a primary care physician and preventative care is essential. Currently, emergency rooms are overcrowded in underserved communities as they’ve become the main source for health care for minorities.
Financial constraints and lack of health insurance are the top two reasons Latinos say they go without medical care.
“Just as the nation is dependent on its growing communities of color for its future economic health, the physical health of these communities depends on the investments we make and the policies we implement today,” wrote Vanessa Cárdenas and Sophia Kerby in a recent report for the Center for the American Progress.
Another report from the Pew Research Center delves deeper into the issue, indicating foreign-born Hispanics and those less assimilated to the U.S. culture, are more likely to not have a primary care physician, and 32 percent of primarily Spanish-speaking Latinos lack a regular health care provider. According to the report, the growing number of undocumented Hispanics — who make up approximately 17 percent of the nation’s uninsured — also contributes to the coverage disparity.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Obama’s health care reform law is estimated however to provide coverage to more than 5 million Latinos by the year 2016. In addition to more coverage options, the ACA will allow Hispanics to receive certain preventative screenings at no cost, helping to encourage a routine of prevention versus treatment.
Twenty-seven percent of Hispanics in the United States were covered under Medicaid in 2009, according to the Kaiser Foundation. Medicaid also covers almost 50 percent of Hispanic children and 63 percent of low-income Latino children.
Hispanic young adults and children will also benefit under their parents’ insurance programs, as the ACA will allow continued coverage for youth up to the age of 25, and no one, regardless of age, will be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
Hispanics in the United States will continue to benefit from ACA programs allocating federal funds for bilingual care givers and community health centers in underserved communities. According to the Center for American Progress, 34.4 percent of patients in community health centers in 2010 were Hispanic.
The advancement of Latino health will be overseen by the new Office of Minority Health, a division of the department of Health and Human Services.