Last Friday, the Georgetown Center for Children and the National Council of La Raza co-released a report detailing recent gains in health coverage for Hispanic children. Among the key findings in the report is that the uninsured rate among Hispanic children dropped significantly in the first year following the implementation of Affordable Care Act provisions. This will be welcome news for advocates who have been working hard to increase health coverage among children, particularly among racial and ethnic minorities. Indeed, uninsured rates among Hispanic children had been falling in the years prior to ACA implementation, due to increased enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP. Implementation of the ACA coverage provisions has led to even greater progress recently, as uninsured rates for Hispanic children fell from 11.5 percent in 2013 to 9.7 percent in 2014.
While this report highlights encouraging developments and trends, it also reveals how much work still remains in this area. The difference between the uninsured rate for Hispanic children and the uninsured rate for all children has decreased significantly since 2009, but as of 2014, inequality remained: the uninsured rate of all children was 6.0 percent, compared to 9.7 percent among Hispanic children. This is reflected in the fact that in 2014, Hispanic children made up 39.5 percent of the uninsured child population, but only 24.4 percent of the overall child population.
As we continue to work on increasing coverage for all children, one particular area of focus for expanding enrollment for Hispanic children is through Medicaid and CHIP. Two-thirds of uninsured Hispanic children were estimated to be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but remained unenrolled. The report highlights the barriers that account for this statistic, such as the absence of necessary translation services and a lack of understanding around eligibility for immigrant children. Issues such as poverty, immigration status, and language ability often present tremendous barriers for Hispanic families in their efforts to secure health coverage, making it all the more important for this work to continue. To address these barriers, the report makes several recommendations, including:
- In states that have not done so, close the coverage gap by accepting federal funds and extending Medicaid to low-income parents; Texas, Florida, and Georgia all have large populations of uninsured Hispanic children and have yet to expand Medicaid. Research has shown that coverage for parents has a “welcome mat” effect, making it more likely that parents will enroll their children as well.
- Targeted outreach and enrollment strategies for Hispanic populations, including full integration of Spanish-language materials and assistance at both the state and federal level.
- Extending public coverage (Medicaid & CHIP) to lawfully residing children; children in many states who are lawful residents are currently ineligible for Medicaid and CHIP based on their immigration status.
Click here for the full report, which includes detailed statistics as well as full recommendations for further progress in expanding coverage for Hispanic children. Wonderful progress has been made, but there is room for much more growth and improvement.