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New York leads in enrolling Hispanic children in health insurance

Jan 15, 2016 12:59 pm
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Andrea Sears reports from New York News Connection for Public News Service that New York state continues to make great progress getting Hispanic kids into health insurance, according to a new report.

Nationally, two-thirds of Hispanic children who are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP are not enrolled. But the report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families said that in New York, the number is less than 4 percent.

One reason, said Lorraine Gonzalez-Camastra, director of health policy for the Children's Defense Fund, is that the state offers affordable children's health insurance for families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, the highest rate in the country.

"Additionally, regardless of immigration status, you can apply for CHIP," she said. "So, we say in New York that we have universal coverage for children and policies that support that."

New York also has had programs to facilitate enrollment in public health insurance programs in every county since 1999.

Hispanic children are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, but they are one-and-a-half times more likely to have no health insurance than other children. Sonya Schwartz, a policy fellow at the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, said that reducing that number is critical because healthy children are healthy learners.

"We have some new research available, and it shows that health coverage for children is linked to better health throughout childhood," she said. "It's linked to school success, and it's linked to improved financial security for their families."

Hispanics are projected to be one third of the U.S. workforce by 2050.

Nationally, almost 25 percent of Hispanic adults don't have health insurance, and reducing those numbers also will get more kids insured. Gonzalez-Camastra said eliminating any stigma associated with applying for subsidized insurance is the next barrier to overcome.

"We find fear and stigma are really the primary barriers for parents who are foreign-born with engaging with the health-insurance marketplace," she said.

Open enrollment through the New York health-insurance marketplace ends Jan. 31, but enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP is open year-round.

The report is online at ccf.georgetown.edu/a>.