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California a Standout State in Health Coverage for Hispanic Kids

PHOTO: According to a new report, California is a standout state for its outreach to Hispanic families in getting children signed up for health insurance. Nationally, Hispanic children are 1.5 times more likely to be uninsured than other kids. Photo credit: Feverpitch/FeaturePics.com.
PHOTO: According to a new report, California is a standout state for its outreach to Hispanic families in getting children signed up for health insurance. Nationally, Hispanic children are 1.5 times more likely to be uninsured than other kids. Photo credit: Feverpitch/FeaturePics.com.
November 13, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO - California agencies and nonprofits have stressed the value of health insurance for children - and in the Hispanic community, it's paying off.

The Golden State is one of three standouts in a new report that examines what 10 states are doing to cover Hispanic kids. According to the report, California's rate of uninsured Hispanic children is slightly more than 9.5 percent, compared with a national rate of 11.5 percent.

Kristen Golden Testa, California health director for the Children's Partnership, says the main reasons for the state's headway in Latino coverage are its early start on Medicaid expansion, and a commitment to make the signup process easier for parents.

"Our state made sure we partnered with local folks that know the individuals in very specific communities, rather than just putting things in Spanish," she says. "There's many different Spanish-speaking communities throughout California."

The report, from the National Council of La Raza and the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says progress also has been made nationally. The rate of uninsured Hispanic children was almost 16 percent just four years ago.

The report also says a state's specific approach to covering children makes all the difference to Hispanic families, who may worry that signing up will call parents' immigration status into question.

That isn't the case, according to report co-author Sonya Schwartz, a research fellow at Georgetown University Center for Families and Children. She says she wishes every state's message was "this clear."

"It's safe to apply for coverage for kids, and that help is available applying in Spanish," says Schwartz. "Even if they've been turned down before when they've tried to apply for their kids, coverage is changing, there's more affordable coverage available now, and they should try again."

She notes 93 percent of Hispanic children in the United States are citizens.

Testa adds that California now has a dual responsibility to its Hispanic families.

"Keeping momentum up is not only continuing to enroll people, but making sure they keep their coverage," she says. "They have to renew every year, and so they need to know about how to renew. It's introducing that whole process to them and making sure that process is easy, too."

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - CA