New UnidosUS/Georgetown Report: Medicaid Expansion Could Narrow Health Coverage Gaps for Latino Families

Hispanic families’ gaps in health insurance growing wider and faster in states without entitlement expansion

WASHINGTON, DC—Latino children and parents are disproportionately more likely to be uninsured across the country, but the coverage gaps are wider and growing faster in states that have yet to adopt Medicaid expansion, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and UnidosUS.

State-level data reveal a wide range in uninsured rates for Latino parents, with a low of 7.7 percent in Massachusetts compared to a high of 52.5 percent in Tennessee in 2019. Texas and Florida alone are home to more than a third of all uninsured Latino parents and nearly half of all uninsured Latino children. While California is also home to a large number of uninsured Latino parents and children, their uninsured rates are well below the national average for both Latino parents and children (18 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively).

The report also takes a closer look at the occupations of Latino parents who would most benefit from Medicaid expansion and finds many of them are in jobs considered “essential” during the pandemic.

“The health and economic crises of the past year have only highlighted the need to act quickly to cover more children and families,” said Matthew Snider, UnidosUS senior health policy analyst and co-author of the report. “Medicaid expansion is not only a smart fiscal decision, it can also help address the longstanding health disparities impacting Latinos and extend quality health coverage to many essential workers who put themselves and their families at greater risk during the pandemic. It’s time for states to use the levers already at their disposal to meaningfully advance health equity.”

States already had access to generous federal financing to expand Medicaid. The recently-passed American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) gives states that have not yet expanded Medicaid even more financial incentives to adopt Medicaid expansion and begin to address the coverage gaps that undermine Latino parents’ and children’s health.

“The benefits of Medicaid coverage for children and parents are clear: improved health and educational attainment for children, better access to care for the whole family, and financial security for parents,” said Kelly Whitener, Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy research professor and co-author of the report. “State policymakers have an opportunity and responsibility to show their commitment to equitable coverage by expanding Medicaid. Doing so would narrow disparities in coverage for Latino parents and children and ensure that more families have the support they need to thrive.”

The report also includes recommendations to reach eligible but unenrolled Latino children and families in states that have expanded Medicaid.

The report can be viewed here.