Insuring Latinos against the costs of illness

by R. Burciaga Valdez

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This paper, the text of testimony presented before the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Aging and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, discusses the limited access of Mexican Americans to medical and mental health care. Of all ethnic groups in the United States, Latinos (Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban-Americans, Central and South Americans) are the least likely to have insurance coverage. In the last ten years, the number of uninsured Mexican Americans increased 150 percent. Most of the uninsured are working people and their dependents. Because Latinos are less likely than any other ethnic group to be salaried or unionized employees, they are less likely to get health benefits. Latinos are also more likely to work in industries that do not provide employee benefits. In addition, Latinos are more likely to work in small firms that have difficulty finding affordable health plans. Many strategies for addressing the problems of the uninsured have been proposed, but have not gained needed support. Until public support for health care system reform takes hold, the author offers the following insurance reform suggestions: limit or eliminate experience rating and return to community rating; eliminate the practice of designating ineligible industries; and stop limiting policies based on size or location. These reforms would broaden access and benefit Latinos and other members of society.

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