Study Evaluates Differences Between Mexican Immigrants, U.S.-Born Residents’ Access to, Use of Health Care Sevices
Mexican immigrants are less likely than people born in the U.S. to consult a physician, use emergency departments or have health insurance, according to a study released Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reports (Milbourn/Sanchez, Sacramento Bee, 10/14).
The study, conducted by the University of California and the Mexican government's National Population Council, is based on an analysis of the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, which was performed in 2000 by a unit of HHS (Spagat, AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/14). According to the study, although many Mexican immigrants arrive in the U.S. healthier than their white counterparts, their health deteriorates the longer they live in the U.S., possibly related to a lack of health insurance and a change in lifestyle.
The study says that 6.8% of recent adult Mexican immigrants -- those who had been in the U.S. for fewer than 10 years -- reported that their health was fair or poor, compared with 10.6% of U.S.-born whites. After 15 years of living in the U.S., 15% of Mexican immigrants said their health was fair or poor, Reuters/Arizona Daily Star reports.
According to the study, "It is unknown ... if worsening health status is a result of years of difficult labor and poverty, changing health behaviors like diet and smoking or insufficient preventive medical care."
The study also includes the following findings.
- 2.6% of recent Mexican immigrants had diabetes, compared with 7.7% of Mexican immigrants who had lived in the U.S. for 15 years (Reuters/Arizona Daily Star, 10/14).
- More than two-thirds of recent Mexican immigrants and 44.8% of "long-term immigrants" do not have health insurance, compared with 22.5% of Mexican-born Americans and 12.3% of U.S.-born whites, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/14).
- Recent Mexican immigrants were more likely than U.S.-born whites to not have seen a doctor in the past two years, the Los Angeles Times reports (Lin, Los Angeles Times, 10/14).
- Fewer than 10% of recent Mexican immigrants reported using an emergency department in 2000, compared with 20% of U.S.-born whites, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. In addition, 13.7% of Mexican immigrants who had lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years said they had gone to an emergency department for health care during the previous year.
- More than 33% of Mexican women ages 18 to 64 who were recent immigrants had not had a Pap smear in three years, and 29.7% of Mexican adults had visited a dentist in the past year. Other groups reported more frequent dental visits and pap smears (AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/14).
- About 37% of recent Mexican immigrants visited a health clinic instead of a physician for health care, compared with about 15% of U.S.-born whites.
Xochitl Castaneda, director of the California-Mexico Health Initiative, said clinics are often "overwhelmed" with patients, adding, "Mexicans aren't using as much health insurance as they could be because they are not friendly linguistically."
Steven Wallace, one of the study's authors and associate director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California-Los Angeles, said, "[The study] reveals gaps in worker-based health insurance," adding, "Latinos are more likely to work for smaller companies and industries including construction or service where hours offered don't qualify for health insurance" (Uranga, Los Angeles Daily News, 10/13).
Castaneda said, "The study breaks a lot of myths. ... There are assumptions that immigrants are breaking the economy by using emergency rooms." She added that findings regarding emergency department visits were significant because Mexican immigrants tend to work in construction or agriculture, where they are more likely to encounter occupational hazards that cause injuries (Los Angeles Times, 10/14).
Elena Zuniga, one of the study's authors, said, "Without good health, Mexican immigrants cannot work in the physically demanding occupations where many are concentrated" (Reuters/Arizona Daily Star, 10/14).
In related news, "California Connected" -- a weekly, hourlong newsmagazine produced by PBS stations in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco that covers state events and issues -- on Friday is scheduled to include a segment on the trend of California residents seeking health care in Mexico and enrolling in cross-border health plans that allow members to seek medical care in either the U.S. or Mexico, where physician visits and prescription drugs may be less expensive (Dann, "California Connected," KVIE, 10/14). Video of the segment in Quicktime media format will be available online after the broadcast.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.