¡Que horrible! Latinos lack health insurance

October 13, 2013

By Ashley Apodaca

More than one-third of Hispanics under age 65 living in the South are without health insurance coverage, according to data released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Every year, the bureau provides estimates on health insurance coverage by demographic group for every state and county in the U.S. The latest set of data revealed significant disparities in coverage status between Hispanics and whites for most of the country.

In Georgia, for example, almost 44 percent of all Latino residents lacked health coverage in 2011, the Census Bureau’s Small Area Health Insurance Estimates showed. That was the state with the higher proportion of uninsured Hispanics. In contrast, about 16 percent of whites in Georgia didn’t have health coverage.

Several other states, especially in the South, reflected that trend:

¶ Of the 10 states with the highest levels of uninsured Hispanic populations, nine were in the South. Besides Georgia, they ranged from North Carolina (more than 41 percent) to Texas (more than 37 percent).

¶ In 27 states, at least three out of 10 Latinos didn’t have health insurance.

¶ In Maryland and Washington D.C., Hispanics were four times more likely than their Caucasian counterparts to be uninsured.

¶ Massachusetts had the lowest rate of uninsured Hispanics — about 11 percent. The rate for whites there was 4 percent.

According to the Census Bureau’s website, the SAHIE data can be used to analyze “geographic variation in health insurance coverage, (and) disparities in coverage by race/ethnicity, sex, age and income levels that reflect thresholds for state and federal assistance programs.”

That’s an increasingly hot topic as federal Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare, takes effect. The law requires all Americans to have health insurance.

The numbers in this report were based on the SAHIE data for Hispanic and Caucasian populations of men and women of all income brackets, under the age of 65 (0-64 years old). Americans 65 and older qualify for Medicare, government-provided health coverage.

The analysis by data journalism students in VCU’s MASC 644 Computer-Assisted Reporting course confirmed a report published by DistilNFO Hospital, a newsletter about health care developments.

DistilNFO also analyzed the data and published its article with the headline: “Hispanics most likely to go without health insurance.”

Map showing the percentage of uninsured Hispanics in each state

This article is a “Data Drop brief” — a quick-hit posting based on analysis by students in MASC 644 Computer-Assisted Reporting. The exercise involved downloading the U.S. Census Bureau’s SAHIE database; extracting the date for Hispanics and the date for whites; joining those tables; and then analyzing the results.