Medicaid expansion, better outreach key to lowing uninsured Hispanic rate

While the Affordable Care Act has helped lower the overall uninsured rate, a large percentage of Hispanic Americans still lack health coverage. The key to lowering this population's uninsured rate might be found in expanding Medicaid and improving outreach initiatives, said a new study from the Commonwealth Fund.

In many states, the percentage of Hispanic residents who have health insurance is smaller than their share of the overall population. This is true even though uninsured Hispanics are eligible for subsidized health insurance under the ACA or now qualify for Medicaid, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

The ACA has made a dent in the uninsured rate among Hispanics, which fell from 40 percent in 2012 to 34 percent last year. But at the same time, African Americans' uninsured rate dropped from 20 percent to 18 percent, while whites' rate decreased from 14 percent to 10 percent, the Commonwealth Fund noted.

That's why some insurers have taken atypical approaches to reach Hispanic consumers. Blue Cross plans in Texas and North Carolina, for example, sent recreational vehicles to try to attract Hispanics at community events last year. Other insurers, government agencies and community groups also use Spanish-language billboards, radio and television spots.

But the Commonwealth Fund said more work must be done to get Hispanics to enroll in health insurance, particularly among Hispanics who predominantly speak Spanish.

"Language barriers continue to be an important consideration for improving coverage among Latinos," Michelle Doty, lead author and the Commonwealth Fund's vice president of survey research and evaluation, said in the report.

In fact, about 75 percent of uninsured Hispanics predominately speak Spanish, and 79 percent of those individuals understand or speak English "just a little" or "not at all."

The report also pointed to Medicaid expansion as a method to reducing the uninsured Hispanic population. In states that have already expanded Medicaid, 26 percent of Hispanic residents are uninsured, whereas 46 percent of Hispanics aren't insured in nonexpansion states.

To learn more:
- here's the Commonwealth Fund study