Latino Child Health Coverage Rate Reaches Record High, But Threats Loom

By Steven T. Lopez, Manager, NCLR Health Policy Project, and Sonya Schwartz, Research Fellow, Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families

Latino children with health coverage reached a record high 92.5 percent in 2015, the second year after key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect, according to our new joint report with the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. These gains are part of larger overall coverage gains for America’s children. For the first time in U.S. history, more than 95 percent of all children have health coverage.

But until every child has the opportunity to receive health coverage, it is crucial for us to continue to build on the progress that has already been made.

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Looking back more than a decade, we can see just how far we have come in covering more Latino children. In 2000, around 26 percent of Latino children were uninsured. Fast forward to 2013, right before major coverage provisions of the ACA took effect, and two million Latino children, or 11.5 percent, were uninsured.

In 2015, after implementation of the the ACA, that number dropped further to 1.4 million or 7.5 percent. This improvement is especially significant given that the number of Latino children increased from 17.7 million to 18.1 million from 2013 to 2015. In fact, this decline in the Latino child uninsurance rate represents the largest such decline over a two-year period in our nation’s history.

What accounts for this progress? Our report finds that the combination of the implementation of major provisions of the ACA, as well as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) continue to collectively provide essential coverage opportunities for Latino children. Digging a little deeper, we are seeing tremendous progress across states. Since 2013, 22 states have seen a significant decline in both the rate and number of uninsured Latino children, with California having the largest decline in the number of uninsured Latino kids (-258,000) and Nevada with the largest decline in the uninsured rate as a whole (9.3 percentage points). Additionally, within this group of 22, California, Colorado, and Washington each cut the number and the rate of uninsured Latino children by more than half during this period. While California has the second largest uninsured Latino child population, its Latino uninsured rate (4.2 percent) is below the national average for all children.

Despite our significant progress, inequities remain. While Latino children account for 25 percent of the child population, they represent 39 percent of uninsured kids. Additionally. Latino children continue to have significantly higher uninsured rates (7.5 percent) than their all children (4.8 percent). States with significant Latino child populations, such as Texas and Florida, have seen improvements. However, Texas and Florida’s progress on reducing these inequities continues to lag behind the rest of the country. While Texas experienced a reduction of 130,000 in the number of uninsured Latino children, the state continues to have the largest Latino child uninsured population at 456,000, with an uninsured rate (12.9 percent) significantly higher than the national average. Florida (8.5 percent) and Arizona (10.6 percent) have respectively the third and fourth largest populations of uninsured Latino children, and have uninsured rates higher than the national average.

While we celebrate the years of consistent and persistent efforts that have lead to this success, we know we cannot take these gains for granted, especially in this current policy environment. Research has confirmed the long-term benefits of covering children, including improved academic outcomes, and greater economic opportunity. Still, coverage gains for our nation’s children are vulnerable. Efforts to undermine the ACA, as well as the Medicaid program, and CHIP, would put both the health and well-being of our children, and the future success of our nation at risk. Now is the time to finish the job we started decades ago—and provide every child an opportunity for health coverage.

We have come too far and are too close to turn back now.

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