In the states that have chosen not to expand their Medicaid program, there are hundreds of thousands of uninsured, low-income Hispanics who are lagging behind on key measures of access to healthcare, according to a report from Families USA. To explore how expanding Medicaid can mitigate these disparities in healthcare, researchers compared how insured and uninsured low-income Hispanics in three states fare in terms of access to healthcare and preventive health services. The data found low-income Hispanics with health insurance fare better on three core indicators of access to healthcare than their uninsured counterparts:
- An individual's ability to afford the cost of going to the doctor: The major role of health insurance is to reduce cost as a barrier to getting necessary medical care. Research shows that, for uninsured, low-income Hispanics, cost is a significant barrier to seeing a doctor.
- Whether an individual has a regular doctor: In addition to helping people afford the care they need, insurance fosters ongoing relationships between patients and medical practitioners. Having a regular source of care allows a patient to have continuity of treatment for chronic conditions, as well as monitoring to prevent more severe problems from developing. Findings point to disparities in access to a regular doctor between those who had insurance and those who didn’t.
- Whether an individual had a routine medical check-up in the past year: An annual check-up is critical to the prevention, early diagnosis, and effective treatment of health problems. Researchers found that those who lacked health insurance were less likely to receive this preventive health service.