Dearth of Health Benefits for Hispanics

June 13, 2001 ( - Hispanics lag far behind other groups in terms of health insurance coverage, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund.

The report analyzes the factors that translate to limited opportunities for Hispanics to get health insurance such as immigrant status, which restricts access to Medicaid, and negatively affects coverage within employer health insurance systems.

Findings also show that foreign-born Hispanics are twice as likely as those born in the US to be uninsured. Within the immigrant population, Hispanics have higher uninsured rates than other groups.

  • almost three-quarters of new Hispanic immigrants lack health insurance
  • compared to 28% of new non-Hispanic immigrants
  • one-third of Hispanic immigrants remain uninsured after living in the US for 15 years or more, double the rate for other immigrants in this group.

Country of Origin

In addition, while more than a third of all Hispanics lack insurance, rates of working-age Hispanics without coverage vary widely according to country of origin, specifically:

  • nearly 40% Hispanics from Mexico lack insurance
  • a similar number of those from Central and South America are without insurance
  • compared with almost 20% of those from Puerto Rica and Cuba.

Hispanics are also more likely to be employed in industries and occupations where employer coverage is less likely to be offered. Within these industries, Hispanics are less likely than non-Hispanics to be offered coverage. In the construction industry for example:

  • almost two-thirds of non-Hispanic whites are offered and eligible for coverage
  • compared to 46% of Hispanics, despite the latter being just as likely to accept it.

Low Income, Low Coverage

Lower income accounts for some of the disparity. Of families with incomes lower than $15,000:

  • almost half of Hispanics are uninsured
  • compared with 29% of whites and blacks.

Among full-time Hispanic workers,

  • almost 60% are covered through their employer
  • compared with 75% of blacks
  • and  80%, of whites.

Family Values

Family structure was also seen to affect access to insurance compared to non-
Hispanic whites, Hispanic couples are, on average:

  • younger than other groups
  • more likely to have young children at home
  • more likely to have only one wage earner in the household.