TALLAHASSEE, FL — The COVID-19 health crisis has many Americans without health insurance on edge, and a new report says Latino children are increasingly vulnerable.
Between 2016 and 2018, both the number and rate of uninsured Latino children in the U.S. increased significantly, according to the report by UnidosUS and the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.
Alison Yager, director of policy advocacy for the Florida Health Justice Project, says during that time, the number of Florida’s uninsured Latino children grew by more than 20%, or almost 23,000 children.
“Florida has the third largest population of uninsured children, and 8.6% of all uninsured Latino children in the U.S. live in Florida,” she points out.
Yager says much of the increase among Latino children can be traced to the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce health care programs for immigrant families, plus Florida’s complex web of multiple service providers.
The report’s lead author, Kelly Whitener at Georgetown, says by the end of 2018, the total number of uninsured Latino children across the U.S. was 1.6 million.
“So, these are working families,” she points out. “Latino families have higher workforce participation rates actually than average, but they’re not able to access employer-sponsored coverage. Or if they do have an offer of employer-sponsored coverage, it maybe unaffordable, or only for the worker and not extend to the whole family.”
Unlike other states, Florida divides eligibility among several programs – such as Florida Healthy Kids, MediKids and Children’s Medical Services – which can be hard for parents to navigate.
Yager says children who are eligible are missing out on coverage because the enrollment process can be confusing.
“We really need to be investing in culturally responsive and linguistically appropriate outreach, and enrollment efforts and resources. And we need to be educating people about the public charge rule,” she states.
The “public charge” rule has made it harder for people to get visas or green cards if they use some forms of public assistance, which is another reason they might avoid signing their children up for health coverage.
The report lists Miami Dade County among the top 10 counties nationwide with the highest number of uninsured Latino children.