Medical Costs Yet Another Hurdle for Hispanics

by Rick Blizzard, D.B.A.
Health and Healthcare Editor

May be forced to choose between healthcare and clothing their families

Hispanics account for about 14% of the U.S. population and are expected to constitute 25% by 2050. This fast-growing sector presents a challenge to the public health community -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office for Minority Health reports Hispanics have a disproportionately high prevalence of many medical conditions, including asthma, HIV/AIDS, obesity, tuberculosis, pulmonary disease, and others.

Given these findings, it's troubling that 46% of Hispanics in the United States report there have been times during the past year when they didn't have enough money to pay for medical care, according to Gallup's June 2005 Minority Relations poll*. This percentage is significantly higher than it is for non-Hispanic whites (24%), but essentially is the same as for blacks (42%).

Substantial Numbers of Hispanics Lack Funds for Healthcare, Food, Clothing …

Gallup also asked survey respondents whether there have been times in the past year when they haven't had enough money to pay for the food and clothing that their families needed. Hispanics are just as likely to say they haven't had enough money to pay for healthcare as they are to say they haven't had enough money to pay for clothing, suggesting some Hispanics may be forced to choose between seeking needed healthcare and clothing their families. Certainly, the inability of many Hispanics to pay for needed healthcare threatens their overall health, but it is also possible that their increased likelihood of lacking needed food or clothing could also contribute to poorer health.

… Yet Hispanics Are Satisfied With Their Personal Health

Although a substantial proportion of Hispanics say they did not have enough money to pay for healthcare at times, and although CDC data show a high prevalence of conditions and health risks among Hispanics, Hispanics are just as likely as non-Hispanic whites and blacks to express a high level of satisfaction with their personal health. Fifty-six percent of Hispanics say they are "very satisfied" with their personal health, compared with 53% of both blacks and non-Hispanic whites. Hispanic satisfaction with personal health has held relatively steady since Gallup began measuring it in 2001.

Bottom Line

According to a recent National Center for Healthcare Statistics report, access to health insurance through employment is lowest for Hispanics, and Hispanics and blacks are far more likely than whites to lack health insurance. While this may explain disparities in ability to pay for healthcare, for Hispanics, language and cultural barriers and lack of access to care further upset an already precarious situation. Unless these healthcare barriers are addressed quickly, the situation is likely to worsen as the population grows.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 2,264 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 6-25, 2005, including oversamples of blacks and Hispanics that are weighted to reflect their proportions in the general population. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

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