High Percentage of Uninsured Latino Children Could Have Serious Economic Consequences for State, Study Says
Nearly one-fourth of Latino children in California are uninsured, and the resulting lack of health care can lead to "missed school days and a downward spiral that can have enormous implications on the state's economic prosperity," researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture said in a report released Tuesday, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
According to the Daily News, researchers used existing data and information to "connect the dots" and document problems that can be caused by lack of medical care for the estimated 3.7 million Latino children in California.
According to the study, uninsured children frequently do not receive vaccinations, physical examinations and other routine preventive services, resulting in sicknesses and school absences for many children. For example, children miss an average of 27 days of school annually in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where 70% of students are Latino,.
According to the study's authors, missed school days can mean diminished future productivity because U.S.-born Latinos without higher education are "more likely to rely on public assistance and will have lower earning potential, less chance of home ownership and will be less likely to vote," according to the Daily News.
The researchers attributed a recent increase in the number of uninsured children in the state to a combination of events, including reductions in funding for state and county health care programs. In addition, a growing number of people in Los Angeles are employed by small and mid-size businesses that do not provide health insurance.
The report's authors wrote, "We know what the costs of health insurance are, but equal attention needs to be devoted to the costs of not having health insurance."
Noting that children improve -- in school and elsewhere -- as soon as they are enrolled in health care programs, the researchers said that greater statewide efforts to improve care are needed.
"It would be to the state's advantage," study author David Hayes-Bautista, director of the center, said, adding, "Some counties are ahead of the pack. There's no reason they should have to have their children suffer."
Julie Cha, a spokesperson for Northeast Valley Health, said, "You just see a lot of families who have gone without insurance for so long. A lot of them could end up with chronic diseases ... from obesity to diabetes to asthma. These can become chronic, lifelong problems that they carry into adulthood" (Mascaro, Los Angeles Daily News, 4/27).
In related news, a study released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on Wednesday found that California "lags most other states when it comes to the percentage of working residents with health insurance coverage," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
According to the report, California ranks 32nd among all states in terms of the number of uninsured. In 2003, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 2.37 million uninsured employed state residents, representing 15.9% of the state's working population. Nationally, 16% of working adults, or 20 million people, were uninsured in 2003.
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, said, "This reconfirms we're in the bottom half. While there's little to no discussion on the national level, luckily there's a robust debate on health reform at state level" (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/28). The report is available online.