COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated longstanding health coverage disparities for Latino families, even as many Latino workers put themselves and their families at greater risk while continuing to work in essential roles to support their communities during the pandemic. These coverage disparities persist across the country, but are wider and growing faster in states that have failed to adopt the Medicaid expansion to cover more parents and other adults.
A new report from CCF and UnidosUS shows that adopting Medicaid expansion is not only a smart fiscal decision, it will also help advance health equity by narrowing coverage gaps for Latino families. Conversely, state policymakers’ decisions to continue blocking access to Medicaid coverage will only worsen these inequities.
Latino parents in non-expansion states are almost twice as likely to be uninsured compared to Latino parents in expansion states.
Figure 1. Uninsured Rate for Latino and Non-Latino Parents by Expansion Status
The coverage disparities are even worse for Latino children – Latino children in non-expansion states are about 2.5 times more likely to be uninsured than Latino children in expansion states, and the coverage gap is widening faster in non-expansion states.
Figure 8. The Uninsured Rate for Latino Children is Growing at a Faster Pace in Non-Expansion States
Research shows that covering more parents, caretakers, and other adults helps increase children’s coverage rates too.
Fortunately, the recently-passed American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) includes an additional financial incentive for the remaining 12 states to adopt Medicaid expansion, on top of the already extremely generous federal matching rate for the expansion group. Under ARPA, states that newly expand will receive an additional five-percentage point increase in the regular federal matching rate for two years (the federal matching rate for the expansion population remains 90 percent permanently). If all 12 states were to adopt Medicaid expansion in 2022, the ARPA incentive would amount to a net overall gain of $9.6 billion in federal funds.
Meanwhile, federal policymakers are considering alternatives to Medicaid expansion that would be fully federal controlled. For example, President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget outlines a plan to extend coverage to those who are currently left out by states’ failure to expand Medicaid through a federal public option. But there is no need to wait—Medicaid expansion is available now.
The health and economic crisis have left Latinos in a far more vulnerable position than they were before, and require immediate action by state policymakers to adopt Medicaid expansion and begin to address the coverage gaps undermining Latino parents’ and children’s health. Latinos rose to the occasion by keeping our country and economy running throughout the pandemic, on the frontlines and in essential jobs. State policymakers have a responsibility to show their commitment to equitable coverage without delay.