HEALTH

Study reveals why Latino children are uninsured at higher rates – and it's quite simple

CICERO, IL - MAY 11:  Dr. Michael Paul, with the Pediatric Mobile Health Unit of Loyola University Medical Center, performs a physical exam for incoming fifth-graders on fourth-grader Bennita Correa outside David Burnham Elementary School May 11, 2004 in Cicero, Illinois. The Pediatric Mobile Health Unit, the first if its kind in the world, is a 40-foot long truck which accommodates two patient examination rooms, a laboratory, a medical records area and hearing booth. Since 1998 more than 50,000 uninsured and underinsured children in the Chicago area have been evaluated and treated at the unit.  (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

CICERO, IL - MAY 11: Dr. Michael Paul, with the Pediatric Mobile Health Unit of Loyola University Medical Center, performs a physical exam for incoming fifth-graders on fourth-grader Bennita Correa outside David Burnham Elementary School May 11, 2004 in Cicero, Illinois. The Pediatric Mobile Health Unit, the first if its kind in the world, is a 40-foot long truck which accommodates two patient examination rooms, a laboratory, a medical records area and hearing booth. Since 1998 more than 50,000 uninsured and underinsured children in the Chicago area have been evaluated and treated at the unit. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)  (2004 Getty Images)

Recent findings from studies conducted over the last five years in Dallas, Texas show an astounding imbalance between non-Latino and Latino and African-American children when it comes to health insurance. 

According to data processed by the International Journal for Equity in Health, minority children have the highest uninsured rates in the U.S., accounting for 53 percent of uninsured American children — even though they make up only 48 percent of the U.S. child population.

And the reason, the authors of the study say, is surprising.

“Half of parents of uninsured minority children are unaware that their children are Medicaid/CHIP-eligible,” the study concludes. “These uninsured children have suboptimal health, impaired access to care, and major unmet needs.”

Also, because the child’s health causes considerable family financial burden, one in 10 parents ceased work. “The study findings indicate urgent needs for better parental education about Medicaid/CHIP, and for improved Medicaid/CHIP outreach and enrollment,” the authors recommend.

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Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are designed to help needy kids, but in order to receive coverage parents must register their children – and in many cases that doesn’t happen.

For the study, conducted in 2011 and 2014, researchers went to 97 Dallas sites and recruited low-income residents. They were looking for kids who were 18 or younger, did not have health insurance, were identified by families as Latino or African-American, and were eligible for CHIP or Medicaid.

The team found 267 uninsured children for the study. Forty-nine percent of the parents said they didn’t know their children were eligible to apply for Medicaid or CHIP.

Two-thirds of the uninsured kids in the study had special needs, such as eczema, allergies and asthma.

“The parents of children who are uninsured are much less likely to feel confident that their children can get the care they need,” said Genevieve Kenney, an economist who is senior fellow and co-director of the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute, to The Washington Post.

“We’re learning more and more that those kinds of worries and anxieties have adverse effects on families,” she added.

Dallas has one of the highest uninsured children numbers in the U.S. When the study ended in 2014, 6.2 percent of children nationally were uninsured, but the number jumped to 11 percent in Texas and 15.9 percent in Dallas County.

In another study, marked as a companion to the initial study, researchers looked at whether having parent mentors would assist the families of uninsured children in being enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP outreach.

The results were striking. Ninety-five percent of families working with mentors saw lower costs to families, better access for kids and greater approval with parents. Without a mentorship, only 68 percent showed positive results.

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