Latino workers and families in the U.S. are among the largest beneficiaries of federally funded health insurance, but depending on the outcome of the current budget debate, they could end up losing that access.

Alvaro Garcia is a documented immigrant with a college degree who cannot afford to get ill, and he has a previous heart condition that fortunately has not bothered him in the last few years. Alvaro works whenever he can get a part-time job that offers no insurance.

Garcia tells The Florida Independent that if he were to get hurt painting houses or putting up drywall, he would go to the emergency room and then pay his bill on a monthly basis. He’s heard about Medicaid but has not applied.

A report released yesterday by the National Council of La Raza and Families USA states that “Medicaid and its sister program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), buffer millions of Latinos and other vulnerable Americans from uninsurance.” The report shows that between 2007 and 2009 almost 3.8 million Hispanics living in Florida received medical insurance under federally funded Medicaid and/or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (aka CHIP).

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said during a conference call yesterday that Latinos are two times more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic whites. He added that Medicaid covers at least half of Hispanic children across the country, providing the preventative care they need. The report explains that without Medicaid the uninsured rate for Latinos would climb to 32 percent.

Pollack said this makes Medicaid a lifeline for Latinos across the U.S. He added that Latinos often hold jobs that offer no health coverage or coverage they cannot afford.

Lucia is Latina, a full-time employee and a legal permanent resident who has lived in the U.S. for 16-plus years; she pays for her health insurance through her job. She has three U.S.-born children on Medicaid. She tells the Independent, “I couldn’t afford to put my kids on the health insurance plan my employer offers.” She asked that we use only her first name.

This discussion about Medicaid is very timely, said Pollack, because the Washington, D.C., budget debate includes possible cuts to the program. Pollack explained that House Republican Paul Ryan’s proposed reductions would cut $771 billion from Medicaid. It would also repeal the Medicaid expansion established in the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Families USA-La Raza report, Latinos would be major beneficiaries of this Medicaid expansion.

Pollack also mentioned a recently issued Oregon study that says that Medicaid improved access to health care, financial security and reported health statuses.

According to a report (.pdf) on the Oregon study, “in 2008 Oregon decided to establish a waiting list for the program, drawing names by lottery to fill the openings. This random selection process gave health economists the opportunity to study people who got onto Medicaid through the lottery and those who remained uninsured.”

Read a fact sheet from the report:

Fact Sheet_Hispanics and Medicaid State by State FINAL

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