We Can Fix This, People! More than Half of Uninsured Parents Are Hispanic

By Sonya Schwartz, Georgetown University Center for Children and Families

New data zeroes in on a subgroup of uninsured adults not always studied: uninsured parents.

An Urban Institute report released September 9th found that more than half (57 percent) of uninsured parents surveyed in March/June 2014 were Hispanic and more than one-third (38.4 percent) said their primary language was Spanish. While I know this does not sound like a positive development, the good news is that we can fix this!

Many of these uninsured Hispanic parents are currently eligible for Medicaid or subsidies in the health insurance marketplace but remain uninsured. Others are in a coverage gap because their state has not expanded Medicaid, or possibly because of the family glitch. These are all problems we can fix! Keep reading to find out how.

Covering Eligible but Unenrolled Hispanic Parents

For Hispanic and Spanish language parents that are eligible for but unenrolled in Medicaid or subsidized coverage in the marketplace, there are concrete steps states and the federal government can take to improve the odds that they get covered. Here are a few:

• Provide more Spanish-language enrollment assistance resources. Enrollment assistance should be in the appropriate language, and culturally competent. If possible, in-person assistance should be available in the communities where uninsured Hispanics live and/or work, but it should also be available by phone.

• Smooth out system glitches that make enrolling much harder for naturalized citizens and lawful residents. Topping the list of system glitches are the identity verification systems that don’t work well for populations with limited credit history, upload problems when attaching documents for verification purposes, and data matching/ verification problems related to immigration and citizenship status.

• Provide high quality Spanish-language translations of all important documents. Documents needing translation run the gamet from paper and online applications, to outreach materials, fact sheets, and then specific individual notices to enrollees and applicants whose primary language is Spanish. Translations should be high quality and community-tested.

Covering Ineligible Hispanic Parents

It is not a total surprise that so many Hispanics parents are uninsured when states like Texas, Florida and Georgia, where we know many Hispanics live, have not yet decided to expand Medicaid. For Hispanic parents that are in the coverage gap, because their state has not expanded Medicaid (thanks to KFF’s report, we know 21% of uninsured adults in the coverage gap are Hispanic) it’s one more reason to push their state to takeup the Medicaid expansion that may help push states to the tipping point. Parents who fall into the family glitch, would need a federal fix to be eligible for subsidies to enroll in the marketplace. Some parents are ineligible for coverage programs because of their immigration status, but a large majority of Hispanics in the United States were born in the United States, are naturalized citizens or are lawfully present, so immigration status is not the major barrier to eligibility.

As we gear up for open enrollment in November, it’s time to get to work and fix this, people!

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Center for Children and Families Say Ahhh! Blog.

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of the individual blog post authors and do not represent the views of Georgetown University, the Center on Health Insurance Reforms, any organization that the author is affiliated with, or the opinions of any other author who publishes on this blog.