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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Hispanic children in AZ are grossly underinsured

While the federal government is fighting over socialized health care, a large percentage of the populations most vulnerable are left uninsured.

A recent study conducted by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute says that 12.7 percent of Hispanic children in Arizona do not have health insurance—a statistic greater than the national average. In Arizona, approximately 34 percent of Hispanic children are living in poverty. This, and several other reasons, may be contributing to the high percentage of Hispanic children that are uninsured.

After the freezing of the KidsCare – Arizona’s Children’s Health Insurance Program in January 2010 due to a lack of funding, many of the state’s youth were left uninsured until the expansion of Medicaid in 2013 under the Affordable Care Act. This made Arizona the only state in the union that did not provide healthcare for youth under 18 years old during this time, according to a report on the state’s website.

“Poverty is, I think, really one of the big, big underlying factors,” said Andrea Romero, director of the Frances McClelland Institute at the UA. “The amount of children living in poverty in Arizona is remarkable.”

According to the Kids Count Data Center, 34.1 percent of Hispanic children are living below the poverty level in Arizona.

The prevalence of poverty combined with the removal of a free access health care program for children is accounting for the higher rates of uninsured children to a great degree, according to Romero.

In addition to poverty, another obstacle is the language barrier.

Jorge Bours, a political science senior, said that this is a huge issue considering the percentage of Latino families that call Arizona home.

“It’s confusing for some Hispanic families to choose certain plans and policies in a country where they might not speak the language,” he said.

Arizona is home to many different ethnic groups and has one of the largest populations of Latinos in the U.S. Despite this, Arizona is ranked third highest for the percentage of children uninsured.

“This same struggle may also stand as an issue for immigrants and their families, as the bureaucratic processes for them make it really difficult to reach out for necessary things such as health insurance,” Bours said. “Arizona has some of the toughest immigration laws in the United States since the Senate Bill 1070 was signed into law in 2010.”

Arizona laws against illegal immigrants prohibit them from receiving public benefits, such as health care.

There are some Hispanic families that are hesitant to apply for health insurance through the government because they have what is called a “mixed status household.”

A mixed status household refers to any circumstance where only one person in the family may be undocumented but the rest of the family members classify as legal citizens, Romero said.

Although there is only a small percentage of people in this situation, it stands as another barrier that may prevent families from getting their children covered under medical insurance.

“It’s so critical for children to have health access because then they can get their shots and early screenings to find out if there is any health issues of concern,” Romero said.

In a report conducted by Romero and her colleagues, data shows that Latino youth show more mental and physical health problems than any other ethnicity. This raises even more of a concern for Arizona’s percentage of uninsured Hispanic children, as they may be the ones who need it most.

“It has a huge negative impact if our youth are not getting the health access they need,” Romero said.

Follow Mackenzie Boulter on Twitter.

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