Access to Health Insurance and Health Care For Latinos in Washington State

Ben Secord
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This project examines access to health insurance and health care for Latinos in Washington State. My research aims to provide a general overview of the extent to which the health needs of the Latino community in Washington are being met. More specifically, I examine the rates of health insurance coverage within the Latino community and some possible causal factors that might help to explain these rates. In addition, I aim to present a general picture of the access to health care services within the Latino community in Washington.

Methods: The following information comes from studies and reports compiled in recent years by a number of different scholars, medical professionals and health-oriented organizations. The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Washington State Department of Health have been particularly helpful in this regard. I have also conducted two interviews with local community members and have used their testimonies to supplement the findings in the report.

Findings: Latinos are more likely than any racial/ethnic group in the U.S. to lack health insurance. These high uninsured rates can be explained (at least in part) by the inter-related factors of employment status, poverty, and legal status. Lack of insurance presents one of the major barriers to accessing medical care. Due to the high costs of medical services, those without insurance often forgo medical care. However, as important as having health insurance is to receiving quality care, it isn’t the only determining factor. Cultural issues and the language barrier also play a role in determining one’s access to health care. The interviews I conducted highlight the limitations of some insurance plans and demonstrate the existence of discrimination within the Latino community.

Recommendations: Addressing the lack of health insurance among Latinos is essential to improving their access to care. The state could require all employers to provide their workers with health insurance and could increase availability of state-run Medicaid and Medicare programs. Insurance plans, whether privately or publicly provided, must adequately and efficiently meet the needs of the people they serve. In addition, a better effort must be made by private and public health institutions to provide comprehensive Spanish services for Spanish- speaking Latinos. Health institutions must also actively recruit Latino health professionals as they are underrepresented in all medical fields.

Community Partners: Another important source of information has come from a local partnership with two medical professionals Dr. Christopher Hall and Benita Aguilar. They have provided me with valuable information regarding the intricacies of issues relating to health insurance coverage and have been helpful in explaining local health issues facing the Latino community.

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