Today, we crossed a milestone that should have never happened—200,000 lives lost to the novel coronavirus. Latinos, who are disproportionately essential workers, have been on the front lines of this pandemic since the virus began to spread in communities across the country in March of this year.
Latinos want what other Americans want—to be safe and healthy. Unfortunately, the census data that was released last week demonstrates that there is still significant work that needs to be done in order to ensure that our families have access to affordable health coverage and care.
When the U.S. Census released new 2019 data last week, one thing immediately stood out: the share of uninsured Latino kids has increased dramatically from 2018. Although the uninsured rate for all children rose in 2019 (from 5.2% to 5.7%), Latino kids—already with the highest rate of uninsurance among child groups—rose from 8.2% to 9.2%. White, Black, and Asian children all experienced increases around 0.2%, but the largest increase was among Latino kids by far. While this has been a trend since 2016, statistics show that is getting worse.
In March, UnidosUS and the Georgetown Center for Children and Families (CCF) released a joint report showing an increase in the Latino child uninsured rate between 2016 and 2018. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more than 600,000 Latino kids have gained health insurance but using the U.S. Census data available at the time, our report showed that these gains were already beginning to come undone.
Along with the warning we sent in March, UnidosUS and CCF included specific recommendations for how policymakers could begin to reverse the trend. We also warned that Latino kids’ health and safety would be at even greater risk during a public health crisis. Since then, we have seen increasing evidence of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Latino children’s health and Latino families’ job and coverage losses. As of September 20, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 40% of cases among those aged 5-17 are Latino, along with 36% of deaths in that age group. Given that only 25% of the child population is Latino, it is clear Latino kids are dying and suffering disproportionately. Our policy recommendations are more urgent than ever given what we have learned in the last six months.
The new census data makes it unmistakably clear: Latino kids were in an even more vulnerable position in the months preceding the national health crisis than previously believed. Undoubtedly various factors play a role in these changes, including state Medicaid/CHIP eligibility levels and enrollment policies and certain states’ failure to expand Medicaid. Some policy changes, including the new “public charge” rule, have led to increased avoidance of Medicaid/CHIP, as well as significant misunderstanding about eligibility for these programs among immigrant families with children. Our March report goes into further detail about contributing factors.
Our national report, state issue briefs, and the latest census data tell an alarming story about Latino children’s health coverage and their ability to be healthy. And as the coronavirus pandemic continues with no end in sight, our community’s ability to get and stay healthy remains precarious.
However, this November, we have the power to write a different story, one that prioritizes the health of our nation’s children, including Latino children. Let’s get loud and let’s use our voice and our vote for the health and well-being of our children.