Pregnant Latinas in California Face Problems When They Apply for Public Health Insurance, Study Finds
Pregnant Latinas in the state face "greater obstacles" and have a "greater sense of fear" when they apply for public health insurance programs such as Medi-Cal and CHIP to cover prenatal care than pregnant Latinas in New York and Florida, according to a new study, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Between 1999 and 2001, researchers from the University of California-San Francisco and the New York Academy of Medicine interviewed 2,370 Latina women who had recently given birth in San Francisco, New York City and Miami about their experiences in applying for public health services while pregnant. Half the women interviewed were undocumented immigrants. Researchers found that 55% of the women in San Francisco found the application process "confusing" or said they were concerned that applying for benefits would affect their immigration status (Hendricks, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/5). In comparison, 33% of women in Miami and 9% of women in New York reported similar concerns (UCSF release, 12/5). In San Francisco, 12% of the women said they feared that in applying for coverage, they would be reported to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 17% feared that applying would make it more difficult for them to become a citizen and 22% feared they would have eventually have to pay back the cost of care (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/5). Although undocumented immigrants reported the most problems in all three cities, 54% of legal immigrants and 29% of citizens in California also reported problems when applying for health insurance coverage. Thirty-one percent of legal immigrants and 21% of citizens in Miami and 9% of legal immigrants and 3% of citizens in New York City reported such problems (UCSF release, 12/5).
Researchers had expected that undocumented women in Florida would "face more obstacles" in obtaining public health insurance because, unlike California and New York, Florida does not use state funds to provide health benefits to undocumented pregnant women, the Chronicle reports. The 1996 welfare reform law outlaws use of federal funds to provide undocumented immigrants Medicaid benefits; however, states are permitted to use their own funds to do so. "Our findings in California were very surprising," UCSF's Dr. Elena Fuentes-Afflick, the report's lead author, said. She added, "Our interpretation is that the fears the women told us about are related to the political and social environment, and they are coloring the actions these women are taking." Researchers cited Proposition 187 as an example of "antagonis[m]" toward immigrants, the Chronicle reports. The measure, which was approved by California residents 1994 but was never implemented, would have restricted access to many public services for undocumented immigrants (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/5).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.