Invest in the Health of Latino Children, Invest in the Future of California

by Mayra E. Alvarez

When I worked at the US Department of Health and Human Services, I was fortunate to travel coast to coast helping educate Latino families about how to enroll in quality, affordable health coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Mothers and tías, fathers and abuelitas would share their stories, their challenges, and their hopes about what the ACA could do for their families. I often talked about my baby sister and how, through the expansion of Medi-Cal, she was able to enroll in coverage and have one more tool to help make sure she can lead a healthy life. Our shared stories reflected the hope we all have for our loved ones—that they be able to lead healthy lives. And since the passage of the ACA, we have made real progress for the future of the Latino community and, in so doing, the state of California.

 In California, Latino children make up half of all children under the age of 18. The future of California depends on our ability to ensure their health and well-being. A new report,Historic Gains in Health Coverage for Hispanic Children in the Affordable Care Act’s First Year, shows that the number of uninsured Latino children dropped dramatically in the first year that the ACA took effect, and California led the way, accounting for more than one-third of the national reduction. Released by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, the National Council of La Raza, and the California Children’s Health Coverage Coalition, the report shows the uninsurance rate for California’s Latino children declined from 9.6 percent in 2013 to 6.8 percent in 2014, a rate significantly lower than the national average of 9.7 percent.

Through the collaborative work of community-based organizations, health centers, churches, promotoras, families, and many others, California made important strides in reaching Latino families and enrolling Latino children. Trusted organizations opened their doors and walked families through the enrollment process. Familiar sources of information shared important details like key dates and answered questions about ways to apply. California opened an incredibly successful marketplace in Covered California and expanded Medi-Cal for adults. In doing so, California provided more children the chance to have coverage, for when parents are enrolled in health insurance, their kids are more likely to be covered.

But despite the progress we have made, we know there is still more work to do. In 2014, California was home to 323,000 uninsured Latino children—the second largest number of any state in the country. Children without insurance are less likely to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy and more likely to face chronic conditions like diabetes or asthma. With a health insurance card in hand, families can take their children to the doctor and dentist on a regular basis, not just when there is an emergency.

Later this year, California will see an expansion of Medi-Cal to include an estimated 170,000 undocumented children. Our state continues to demonstrate leadership as we work to provide every child access to quality, affordable health coverage. In my new role at The Children’s Partnership, I look forward to working with organizations across the state to help get us to 100 percent insurance rate for our future Latino leaders. When we make sure Latino children are covered and healthy, we ensure the future of California is healthy, too.

 

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