Why so many Hispanics are still uninsured
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I was 4 years old in the spring of 1945. My right elbow hurt. It had a boil the size of a golf ball that had flamed up overnight. So my grandmother took me to the neighborhood's only doctor’s office. When the doctor stuck something sharp into my arm, I screamed for my mother, but she was away, working at her $25-a-week job.

I was still whimpering when my grandmother paid the doctor's fee in cash — $10, I'm told.

Like most in America at the time, we did not have health insurance. We paid cash for doctor's office visits.

We were lucky that no one in the family had serious health problems. We were all young and healthy — except, of course, my grandmother, who was an ancient 53 years old. We were healthy Hispanics int the days before anyone dreamed up the word "Hispanic."

Fast-forward to 2017 and to the overhaul of ObamaCare now fermenting in the Congress. After years of ObamaCare, many Hispanics are still without coverage. In fact, Hispanics are the least-insured population group.

Why is that?

First, some Hispanic health facts.

Hispanics have the lowest infant mortality rate of five per 1,000 births, compared to 5.06 for non-Hispanic whites and 11.11 for black non-Hispanics.

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In life expectancy, American Hispanics live longer; 84 years of age for Hispanic women, 79.2 for Hispanic men. For non-Hispanic white women, the life expectancy is 81.4; for non-Hispanic white men, 76.7. Black women have a life expectancy of 78.4; black men, 72.5.

 

One possible factor for Hispanics' long life expectancy?

As the CDC notes, the "prevalence of cigarette smoking among Hispanics is generally lower than the prevalence among other racial/ethnic groups," at 10.1 percent of the Hispanic population compared to 15.1 percent of all U.S. adults.

But back to the original question: One factor that influences minimal Hispanic health insurance participation is age. The national median age is 37; the Hispanic median is nine years lower, at 28 years. Despite Hispanics being 15 percent of the population, 21 percent of millennials are Hispanic, making them a major segment of the youngest, fastest-growing demographic in the nation.

Money is also a large factor in the low insured rates among Hispanics. As the Commonwealth Fund notes, "of the U.S. adult population currently without health insurance, 88 percent is Latino, makes less than $16,243 a year, is under age 35, and/or works for a small business."

Another factor in Hispanics being uninsured is that non-legal residents are not eligible for any part of ObamaCare, yet they are counted in the ranks of uninsured. According to the Pew Research Center, six in 10 illegally present people did not have health insurance when President Obama was elected in 2008. Moreover, many legal immigrants — those here less than five years — aren't eligible for the Medicaid-version of ObamaCare.

(Fortunately, of those non-legal people, 56 percent say they don't need a regular health provider because they don’t need one, according to Pew Research. Fifteen percent say they seek medical treatment from private doctors, hospital outpatient facilities or HMOs; they pay cash or, in some cases, have insurance.)

As Pew also notes, only 6 percent of non-legal people say they use emergency room treatment; that is backed up with studies by the California Nurses Association that have concluded that illegally present people use a third less emergency room services than native-born Americans.

Another reason? Blame how ObamaCare was launched. The Spanish version of HealthCare.gov was an even worse disaster than the English version. The bad Spanish-language version compounded the problem by linking to the troublesome English version. Money was also a big factor, as were rising premiums and unsurmountable huge deductibles that make insurance for ordinary medical issues almost useless.

The final reason is simply fear. In signing up for ObamaCare one must give vital personal information that might lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to one’s house and family.

The government is no longer shy about enforcing removals of anyone here illegally — even grandmothers.

Raoul Lowery Contreras is a longtime contributor to The Hill who formerly wrote for the New American News Service of The New York Times Syndicate. His is the author of "The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade" and "Murder in the Mountains: War Crime in Khojaly," both from Floricanto Press.


The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.