MEDICAID: Hispanic Children Less Likely To Be Enrolled
Almost 3.4 million out of an estimated 10.6 million uninsured children are Medicaid eligible but not enrolled in the program, and three-fourths of them live in the West and the South, according to "congressional investigators seeking to find out why so many parents of uninsured poor children don't take advantage of the government health program." Gannett News Service/USA Today reports that the investigators "found that a major reason for the regional disparities, especially in the West, is that a substantially larger percentage of Hispanic children aren't enrolled in the program when compared with white and black children nationwide." According to the General Accounting Office, "29.2% -- almost three out of 10 -- of uninsured Hispanic children who are eligible for Medicaid aren't in it," compared with 18.9% of eligible black children and 21.1% of eligible non-Hispanic whites. The investigators found that "almost two- thirds, 64.4% of the eligible but uninsured children" in California were Hispanic.
The investigators said low enrollment figures among Hispanic children "indicate that expanding and targeting outreach programs to immigrant and Hispanic communities, as well as using more Spanish-language information materials, could be helpful in the effort to enroll more eligible children." Speculating on the high level of eligible children who are not enrolled in Medicaid, the GAO said "[m]any families associate Medicaid with a family that cannot provide for itself," and many parents "take the view that they never have received welfare and do not want to start." According to investigators, approximately "two-thirds of U.S. children have health coverage through their parents' employment," and "[m]ost other children have publicly funded coverage, usually through Medicaid." Overall, "[a]bout 1.04 million eligible children in the West weren't enrolled in Medicaid in 1996," and "almost 1.49 million eligible children" in the South were not enrolled that year (Collins, 4/27).