We Must Rise to the Challenge and Help Latino Children Get the Health Care They Need

Yesterday (March 18, 2020), we released a report, “Decade of Success for Latino Children’s Health Now in Jeopardy,” in partnership with UndiosUS. The data in this report predate the recent COVID-19 outbreak, but the message is clear. All children need health coverage – especially in times like these. An effective defense against a pandemic includes ensuring everyone has access to health care and that we have a strong health care infrastructure.

The report marks the third time our organizations have teamed up to look at Latino children’s health coverage. It follows up on a report CCF released in October that found that after years of bipartisan work to reduce the child uninsured rate, the number of uninsured children in the US increased by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018, bringing the total to over 4 million uninsured children in the nation. The coverage losses were widespread – with only one state moving in the right direction.

Looking at Latino children’s coverage rates over the same period yielded similarly distressing results. Almost 1.6 million Latino children went without health coverage in 2018, and the uninsured rate increased significantly from 7.7 to 8.1 percent between 2016 and 2018. But it was even more alarming to see that after years of progress narrowing persistent coverage inequities, the gap between Latino children’s coverage rates and coverage rates of other children widened. Latino children are nearly twice as likely to be uninsured nationwide, and in some states Latino children are three or four times as likely to be without coverage.

It took decades to bring the child uninsured rate down to historic lows and persistence to narrow coverage inequities for Latino children. These positive trends are reversing. While many factors contribute to coverage rates, the findings in this report suggest that efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, cut Medicaid, restrict access to care, and foster confusion and fear among immigrant communities can quickly undo past gains.

We need to come together as a nation to ensure that everyone, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, and immigration status, can access the health care services they need to stay healthy. It shouldn’t have to take a public health crisis to bring the health care needs of children into such sharp focus. The time to act is now. Please read our report to see what state and national leaders can do to get our nation back on track for America’s children.

Kelly Whitener is an Associate Professor of the Practice at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families.