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Report: Fewer Latino Children in Utah Have Health Insurance

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A new study shows Utah has among the highest rates of Latino children without health insurance in the country. (josecervo/Adobe Stock)
A new study shows Utah has among the highest rates of Latino children without health insurance in the country. (josecervo/Adobe Stock)
March 20, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY - The number of Latino children with health insurance in Utah and many other states, which had increased steadily over past decades, is now dropping.

A new report by UnidosUS and the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows that Utah has one of the highest rates of uninsured Latino children in the U.S, jumping 6.3 percentage points from 2016 to 2018.

Ciriac Álvarez Valle, policy analyst with Voices for Utah Children, says state officials need to do more to help these children get health coverage.

"Latino children in 2018 were three times more likely to be uninsured as non-Latino children," says Valle. "We don't have any specifically targeted outreach for Latino or other cultural backgrounds, and that has really hurt a lot of our insurance rates."

Valle says the coronavirus pandemic is just the latest reason that it's extremely important for all children to have health insurance.

For information or to register an eligible child, parents can call 866-435-7414 or look online at 'chip.health.utah.gov.'

Kelly Whitener - associate professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy's Center for Children and Families, and the study's lead author - says fear of dealing with U.S. authorities often keeps Latino families from insuring their children.

"Researchers at the Urban Institute have found that Latino communities and immigrant communities are fearful of getting health coverage, or participating in government programs," says Whitener, "because they think there may be immigration consequences for themselves or their family members."

Valle says Utah lawmakers recently removed one regulation that had caused many Latino kids to lose their health coverage, but she says much more needs to be done.

"We didn't have 12-month continuous-eligibility for kids zero-to-five until a couple days ago," says Valle. "And that just means that for Medicaid kids, it would allow them to sign up at the beginning of the year and have coverage all year round."

Health insurance rates for children could improve in 2020, as Utah's expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act began January 1. And research shows that when parents enroll in Medicaid, they're more likely to get their children insured, as well.

Disclosure: Georgetown University Center for Children & Families contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT