HEALTH CARE COVERAGE: A Closer Look At California
Census Bureau figures released yesterday show that 21.5% of Californians lacked health insurance last year -- seven million people total. That percentage places the state above the national average of 16.1% but below Texas' uninsured rate of 24.4%, the highest in the nation. The Census Bureau also found that "the percentage of Latino children without health insurance remained disproportionately high," with almost 29% lacking coverage in 1997, compared to "19% of African- American children and 11% of non-Hispanic white children." Luis Arteaga, interim executive director of the San Francisco-based Latino Issues Forum, cited several factors behind the high rate. First, he noted that a "lot of the Hispanic community is concentrated in sectors and industries that do not provide health insurance -- the blue-collar jobs and the service-sector jobs." Second, he said the Hispanic community has had a traditional distrust of government-sponsored programs, and many fear "anti-immigrant feeling." Jane Delgado, president of the National Coalition of Hispanic Health and Human Services Organizations, pointed out that even in cases where parents have employer-provided coverage, those plans "often ... don't cover the families."
The Census Bureau found that Medicaid rolls fell approximately 8% last year, a decline attributed to the fact that "many women forced off the welfare rolls -- who previously were eligible for Medicaid -- have taken jobs that do not offer insurance or that offer coverage that they cannot afford." Sylvia Drew Ivie, executive director of T.H.E. Clinic for Women in Los Angeles, said, "Our numbers of uninsured patients are going up and our numbers of Medi-Cal insured patients are going down." She noted that a year ago, "about 60% of the clinic's patients were uninsured and 40% had Medi-Cal," compared to 25% of current patients who have Medi-Cal and 75% who are uninsured (Rubin, Los Angeles Times, 9/29). See yesterday's California Healthline to read more coverage of the Census Bureau findings.