August 14, 2015

Hispanic uninsured rate plummets after healthcare reform

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A survey found that the uninsured rate among Hispanics in New Mexico plummeted since the implementation of health care reform, also known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Little girl getting a flu shotThe results “provide strong evidence that the ACA is working among New Mexico Hispanics,” the pollster, Latino Decisions, said in announcing the results.

The poll found that only 8 percent of Hispanic adults lack health insurance, compared to 23 percent in 2013, before the health care reform law went into effect. However, 19 percent of Hispanic adults did not have health insurance for at least one month last year.

The poll was conducted for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy (RWJF-CHP) and the NMCARES-Health Disparities Center.

The biggest barrier to accessing health insurance for Hispanics is cost, the pollster says, promising a follow-up brief specifically about the costs and the impacts of those costs on Hispanics in the state.

Latino Decisions says that Hispanics are particularly important to the success of the health care overhaul in New Mexico because of our state’s unique demographics.

New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics in the nation—approximately 47 percent of the population. And the average age of Hispanics in New Mexico is 29 years old, compared to 47 years old for non-Hispanic whites.

“The ACA relies heavily on the young and presumed healthy segments of the population to enroll in health insurance to control costs for the rest of the population,” Latino Decisions explains.

Medicaid expansion

One reason for the big boost in insured Hispanics is the portion of the law that allows for Medicaid expansion. Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, accepted the Medicaid expansion even as dozens of other states with conservative leaders rejected the expansion.

Again, from Latino Decisions:

Given the state’s high poverty rates and low levels of access to health insurance before the passage of the ACA, Medicaid expansion has led to New Mexico being one of the leaders nationally in reduction of uninsured population. Medicaid expansion has also led to a significant decrease in the disparity in access to insurance between the Hispanic and non-Hispanic white population in New Mexico. The magnitude of this policy change is reflected in Medicaid growing by 50.29% from July-September 2013 to January 2015. The expansion of Medicaid has not only greatly decreased the number of uninsured New Mexicans, but there is evidence that it has saved money within the Medicaid budget and in areas outside of Medicaid as well.

Outreach

The poll also delved into the knowledge about the health care law among Hispanics and found that more could be done to reach out to the Hispanic community for education.

Just 16 percent of Hispanics say they are “well informed” about the law (57 percent say they are “informed”). Fewer than 20 percent say they are “not at all” informed about the new law.

Still, 63 percent of Hispanics in the state say the law is “confusing and complicated.”

There is a divide over what name for the law Hispanics prefer, depending on their preferred language. English-speaking Hispanics prefer the phrase “Affordable Care Act” (38 percent) over “Obamacare” (30 percent) or the “healthcare reform program” (8 percent). Spanish-speaking Hispanics  prefer Obamacare (30 percent) over “Reforma de cuidado de salud” (20 percent) or “Ley de Cuidado de Salud” (20 percent).

These could help state officials in reaching out to the different populations.

The Spanish-speaking results are from a much smaller sample size and would have a larger margin of error.

Other poll results

The results come on the heels of the release of the 2015 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index which found the overall uninsured rate in New Mexico is just 13.1 percent, down from 20.2 percent in 2013.

Nationwide, a Centers for Disease Control poll found that, for the first time, the uninsured rate nationwide is under 10 percent.

The Latino Decisions poll was funded by the National Institute On Minority Health And Health Disparities of the Institutes of Health. The NIH had no say in the Latino Decisions publication.

The Latino Decisions poll of 600 Hispanic/Latino adults in New Mexico was conducted between June 23 and July 14. Of these, 500 were reached through either cell phone or landline phone using live pollsters, while 100 were reached through email.

The poll conducted 82 percent of interviews in English and 18 percent of interviews in Spanish.

The Latino Decisions survey has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points for the topline results.