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Oregon Makes Headway in Insuring More Latino Children

Oregon has made headway in getting health insurance to more Latino children, and could be doing even more, says a new national report. (casiuno/morguefile)
Oregon has made headway in getting health insurance to more Latino children, and could be doing even more, says a new national report. (casiuno/morguefile)
January 18, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon is making progress covering more Hispanic children with health insurance, but there's a lot more to do, according to a new national report.

The state managed to cover an additional 5,000 Latino children in the first year of the Affordable Care Act, but almost 12,000 remain uninsured.

Linda Roman, director of health policy and government relations for the Oregon Latino Health Coalition, says her group wants to see the state expand its Basic Health Plan to cover more low-income families.

In the meantime, she says the health insurance challenge is tougher for households with people of different immigration status.

"One barrier is whether the whole family has health insurance,” she points out. “For mixed-status families, it really creates a patchwork of coverage for each family member – and of course, none of us benefit when folks are uninsured or underinsured."

Roman adds that children are much more likely to be covered when their parents are insured.

The report, from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and the National Council of La Raza, says Oregon is one of 11 states where the numbers and percentage of uninsured Hispanic children have fallen.

While the gap is narrowing, Latino children are still one-and-a-half times less likely to have health coverage than other children.

Sonya Schwartz, a policy fellow at the Georgetown University Center, says correcting that disparity is critical to improving the lives of children, and even pulling families out of poverty.

"Healthy children are healthy learners,” she stresses. “We have some new research available, and it shows that health coverage for children is linked to better health throughout childhood. It's linked to school success, and it's linked to improved financial security for their families."

The report says outreach to families of color should be a priority.

Schwartz says the majority of uninsured Hispanic children are U.S. citizens who are eligible for coverage through states' Medicaid or CHIP programs, but haven't been enrolled.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR