Millions More Latino Adults Are Insured Under the Affordable Care Act
Para una version española: Millones de Adultos Latinos Más Están Asegurados en Virtud de la Ley del Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio.
Millions of Latinos have gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The uninsured rate for working-age Latino adults has fallen from 43.2 percent in 2010 to 24.8 percent in 2016 (Exhibit 1). Uninsured rates have also fallen significantly for whites and blacks, but the nearly 20-point decline for Latinos is the largest of any ethnic group. In addition to offering affordable coverage though the marketplace and Medicaid expansion, the ACA allows "qualified non-citizens" such as those with a green card—who are in the five year waiting period for Medicaid—to enroll in marketplace plans and be eligible for subsidies, regardless of income level.
But the uninsured rate for Latinos is still higher than that of whites and blacks because, prior to the ACA, Latinos had the highest uninsured rate of any ethnic group. Another reason: nearly half of uninsured Latinos are estimated to be undocumented and are therefore ineligible for coverage through the ACA marketplaces or the Medicaid expansion.1 In addition, many Latinos live in states such as Florida and Texas that have not expanded Medicaid. This means that while the number of uninsured Latinos has fallen dramatically because of the ACA, they now comprise a greater share of the remaining number of uninsured adults (Exhibit 2).
Medicaid expansion in all states and immigration reform would help increase the numbers of Latinos who are eligible for coverage, as would loosening the ACA’s restrictions on the eligibility of undocumented immigrants. Some states are taking steps to help make health insurance affordable for immigrant families. California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, D.C., already allow children from low-income families to access affordable health care through their Medicaid programs, regardless of their immigration status. Last year, California also appealed to the federal government to allow the state to open its marketplace to undocumented immigrants, though without subsidies. However, the change in the administration prompted state lawmakers to withdraw the request last week.
1 Authors’ analysis of Pew Research Center’s Statistical Portrait of Hispanics in the United States using the 2014 American Community Survey. J. M. Krogstad, and M. H. Lopez, “Hispanic Immigrants More Likely to Lack Health Insurance Than U.S.-Born” (Pew Research Center, Sept. 26, 2014).