Many Uninsured Latinos Find Health Insurance ‘Too Expensive’ or ‘Not Necessary,’ Study Says
About one-third of California's employed Latinos ages 18 to 65 are uninsured, and many lack coverage because they cannot afford it or do not want it, according to a new study from the University of Southern California. The study, "California's Working Latinos and Health Insurance: New Facts and Policy Challenges," surveyed 1,000 workers this year and found that they lack coverage "by circumstance and by choice" (USC release, 10/3). The survey sought to "compare the validity and importance" of explanations for why so many employed California Latinos are uninsured. Explanations for uninsurance that the study examined include cost, perception that insurance is not a "good value," lack of access to employer-sponsored insurance, preference for care at free clinics, confusing and "burdensome" application processes and cultural barriers. Study researchers asked survey participants to indicate the "most important reason" why they lacked insurance ("California's Working Latinos and Health Insurance: New Facts and Policy Challenges," October 2001). Nearly 32% of Latinos surveyed said they did not have health coverage because it was "too expensive," the study says. Another 23.7% reported that their employers did not offer coverage or they did not qualify for coverage because they work part time. In addition, 13.9% of participants said they did not have coverage because they thought it was "not necessary" (USC release, 10/3). Study co-author Howard Greenwald, a professor of management and policy at USC School of Policy, Planning and Development, said many Latinos prefer to access care at free clinics and hospital emergency departments. "We have to acknowledge that there are people that just don't believe in insurance," he said. He added that because many uninsured Latinos "traditionally" have received care at clinics or in emergency rooms, they might feel a certain level of "comfort" in continuing to receive services at those facilities (Darryl Drevna, California Healthline, 10/5).
The study also finds that some Latinos whose employers offered them health coverage declined to enroll in a health plan. Sixty-eight percent of Latinos who declined coverage said they were "just fine" with receiving free care at clinics, and 40% of uninsured and insured Latinos said health insurance "is not a very good value for the money" (USC release, 10/3). Greenwald suggested that policy makers should consider providing subsidies to strengthen hospital emergency departments and public clinics (Drevna, California Healthline, 10/5). Greenwald added, "There's a traditional attachment to insurance as a mechanism for addressing the problem, but perhaps there are other solutions. Insurance gets all the attention, yet the real issue is getting people care" (USC release, 10/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.