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Feb 18, 2000

U.S. Hispanics Facing Health Care Coverage Crisis One-Third Have No Insurance

Eleven million Hispanic Americans lack health care coverage and often delay or forgo medical treatment because they cannot afford the cost of care, says a new study by Kevin Quinn of Abt Associates. According to Working Without Benefits: The Health Insurance Crisis Confronting Hispanic Americans, Hispanics account for an alarming one-quarter of the nation's 44 million uninsured people. Hispanics are twice as likely as the general population to go without coverage. The number of uninsured Hispanics more than doubled to 11.2 million from 1987 to 1998. "The health of Hispanic working families in the United States—particularly those at the low end of the income scale—is suffering because too many don't even have the option of getting health insurance," said Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund, which funded the report. "Within the past year almost half of uninsured Hispanics have not seen a doctor, filled a prescription, or received recommended medical tests or treatment because of cost." Of the 11 million uninsured Hispanics, 9 million are in families where at least one person works, but 40 percent of working-age Hispanics are uninsured. A key reason why so may lack insurance is that Hispanics are concentrated in low-wage jobs at small firms—jobs least likely to offer insurance. Regardless of what sector of the economy or what type of job they hold, Hispanics are less likely to be insured through their employers. "Hispanics today comprise an increasingly vital share of the nation's workforce, a share that is certain to increase in the future. Yet they appear not to be receiving the same benefits as other working Americans," said Cathy Schoen, vice president of research and evaluation at The Commonwealth Fund. "When they are offered coverage they are just as likely as other groups to accept it." The study says the best way to give more Hispanics access to insurance is through initiatives that make employer-sponsored plans more available and more affordable. The author cautions, however, that to help Hispanics these initiatives must focus on the sectors of the job market in which Hispanics are most concentrated. IMPORTED: www_commonwealthfund_org__usr_img_quinn_wobenefits_01.gif IMPORTED: www_commonwealthfund_org__usr_img_quinn_wobenefits_02.gif

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Feb 18, 2000