COLUMBUS – A healthy start helps for future life success, but a new report finds a higher percentage of Hispanic children lack health insurance compared to other kids.
The findings, released this week by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, show 7 percent of Hispanic children in the state are uninsured, compared with nearly 5 percent of all Ohio kids.
Sandy Oxley, chief executive officer at Voices for Ohio’s Children, points out that’s lower than the national rate of 9.7 percent.
“In Ohio, we’re doing better than the national average, but that still means we have 10,000 Hispanic kids right here in Ohio who aren’t covered with health coverage,” says Oxley.
The good news from the report, she adds, is the 15 percent decline in the number of uninsured Hispanic children nationwide, between 2013 and 2014, mostly as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Georgetown’s spokesperson Sonya Schwartz explains a lack of awareness that insurance is available contributes to the disparities, but language differences and complex eligibility rules also are obstacles to enrollment.
“There are 1.7 million uninsured Hispanic kids in this country,” says Schwartz. “Two out of three of those kids, or more than a million, are right now eligible for Medicaid and CHIP, and unenrolled. And those are just the Hispanic kids, not all kids.”
Oxley says Ohio’s Medicaid expansion to cover more low-income adults has helped children, including those from Hispanic families, get health insurance. But she believes continued support is needed.
“There is opportunity to continue to strengthen Medicaid and Ohio’s Healthy Start,” she says. “So all children will have access to that health care, that makes them more ready for learning and poised for success.”
At the federal level, the report suggests raising income-eligibility levels for the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs, and removing the five-year waiting period in many states for children who are in the country legally.