A new report cites Utah as the worst state in the nation at enrolling Hispanic children under 18 in health insurance coverage.
The new report from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families and the National Council of La Raza finds that 23.4% of Utah Hispanic children are uninsured. Utah’s uninsured rate for Hispanic children is nearly two and a half times the national rate and is higher than the rate in every other state and the District of Columbia. Three other states had comparably high rates, but none had a large Hispanic child population.
“The national uninsurance rate for Hispanic children is at a historic low of 9.7 percent, but Utah’s rate of uninsurance is more than twice as high,” said Sonya Schwartz, a research fellow at the Georgetown Center. “We need to make sure that all Utah’s children, including Hispanic children, have access to health insurance that gives them a strong foundation for the future.”
The report found that Hispanic children were much more likely to have health coverage in states that have taken multiple steps to expand coverage for children and parents. Among the 20 states with the best health insurance coverage rates for Hispanic children, 18 of these high performing states had eliminated the 5-year wait for lawfully residing immigrant children to become eligible for CHIP and Medicaid and 17 had expanded Medicaid. Utah has taken neither of these steps.
“Utah has one of the highest rates in the nation of children who are eligible but unenrolled in public health insurance programs,” said Jessie Mandle of Voices for Utah Children. “We need to restore funding for CHIP and Medicaid outreach so we can better reach Hispanic families, especially those with language barriers. Expanding Medicaid to more low-income adults would also help us enroll more of these eligible Hispanic children.”
The report described a “welcome mat” effect that took place in Medicaid expansion states. As more parents signed up for newly available coverage, they also enrolled their children.
The report notes that Hispanic children are the fastest growing segment of the child population in the U.S.; researchers project that Hispanics will make up one third of the U.S. workforce by 2050. The report cites research demonstrating that improving health care access boosts children’s future earning potential and improves their ability to succeed academically.
“Nearly one in every five of our children in Utah is Hispanic,” said Mandle. “The growing diversity among children in Utah strengthens and enhances the fabric of our state. Making sure all of our children have health coverage must be a top priority to help Utah move forward.”
Mandle listed four state policy recommendations that would help more Hispanic children enroll—and keep—their health insurance coverage:
- Eliminate the 5-year wait for lawfully residing immigrant children and pregnant women to become eligible for Medicaid and CHIP.
- Expand Medicaid coverage to low-income parents and other adults.
- Restore funding for Medicaid and CHIP outreach.
- Establish 12-month continuous eligibility for children on Medicaid.
Continuous eligibility is a state option that allows children to maintain coverage for one full year, even if families experience a change in income or family status. Utah already offers continuous eligibility for CHIP, but not for Medicaid. “Without continuous eligibility, parents are penalized for trying to improve their family’s economic circumstances through temporary or seasonal work,” said Mandle.
To learn more about children’s health insurance options parents can call 211 or visit: www.takecareutah.org
For more information, see the complete report, Historic Gains in Health Coverage for Hispanic Children in the Affordable Care Act’s First Year: