New Study Finds California Latinos Left Behind in ACA Coverage and Access Gains

A new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research recently found that Latinos in California continue to fall behind other racial and ethnic groups in coverage and access to healthcare despite significant health insurance coverage gains provided under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to the center, Latinos in California are less likely to have health insurance due to a lack of employer-provided coverage and barriers such as citizenship restrictions on access. In turn, Latinos experience less access to health services, ultimately resulting in poorer health outcomes.

Using 2015 and 2016 California Health Interview Survey data, the study determined that 13.7 percent of Latinos in California remain uninsured. Although Latinos have one of the highest rates of enrollment in Medi-Cal at 44.9 percent, 21.6 percent of uninsured Latinos are eligible to enroll in Medi-Cal but are not currently enrolled. Only 31.6 percent of Latinos reported being insured through an employer, the lowest job-based coverage rate out of all racial and ethnic groups. Additionally, 139,000 Latino children up to 18 years of age, of 76 percent, are eligible to enroll in Medi-Cal but are not currently enrolled.

Additional findings of the study include:

  • Uninsured rates are higher among Latinos with fair or poor health. Those who are not citizens or permanent residents are more likely to be uninsured than U.S.-born Latinos (44.7 percent versus 16.5 percent).
  • Uninsured rates were higher for Latinos who came to the U.S. less than 10 years ago and those with low English proficiency.
  • Cost is an important factor in Latinos accessing health care. A lack of money resulted in delays in seeking medical care or the inability to fill a prescription.

Researchers further point to the need to expand Medi-Cal access to noncitizens to substantially reduce the uninsured rate between Latinos and other Californians. Additional efforts around reducing healthcare cost and expanding access to subsidies to purchase coverage is another important tool in reducing the Latino uninsured rate.

The full health policy brief is available here.