Latinos Among Those Twice as Likely to Lose Medicaid Coverage When Continuous Renewal Ended


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The pandemic took a toll on many families across the country, especially Latino families. 

Some Latinos lost jobs while others lost the roofs over their heads, and many lost loved ones to the social, health, and economic impacts of COVID-19. 

To combat some of these hardships, the US government adopted several policies to assist families struggling financially. 

One such pandemic-era policy was the automatic renewal of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage making it easier to maintain coverage during a time of economic uncertainty.  

The policy stretched on for three years until states began the process of screening for eligibility in early 2023. 

The sudden upheaval of guaranteed medical insurance for low-income families receiving Medicaid and CHIP put an estimated 15 million people, including 4.6 million Latinos, at risk of losing coverage. 

While the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rallied to spread awareness of the change in renewal eligibility, many, especially people of color, lost their insurance. 

According to new research published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Northwestern University, and Harvard Medical School, Black and Hispanic Americans were found to be twice as likely than white Americans to lose Medicaid coverage due to process-related issues. 

Research Findings on Medicaid Coverage 

During the pandemic, 94 million individuals enrolled in Medicaid, leading to a significant decrease in uninsured people, according to researchers. 

When continuous enrollment ended, 10 million people lost insurance through Medicaid, including many ethnic minorities.  

Researchers wrote that a third of people disenrolled from Medicaid was due to procedural reasons, including incomplete applications, application errors, and inaccurate contact information.  

Racial/ethnic minorities make up about 60% of Medicaid enrollment, potentially leading to a disproportionate amount of Black and Latino individuals being dropped from Medicaid.  

Using the limited information provided by states on the causes of Medicaid disenrollments and assessing the racial/ethnic distribution of disenrollments provided in the US Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, researchers concluded that those who identified as Black or Latino were impact the most. 

In October 2023, approximately 32.4 million adults, 62.6% females and 37.4% males, were still enrolled in Medicaid.  

Of those enrolled in Medicaid, 4.5% identified as Asian, 17.7% identified as Black, 19.9% identified as Hispanic or Latino, and 52% were white. 

Analysis of the 5 million people who lost coverage in the final wave of Medicaid drops revealed that 57.3% cited no longer qualifying as the reason for coverage lost and 17.4% lost coverage because they couldn’t complete the renewal process.  

When it came to the unwinding period, the majority of individuals who couldn’t complete the renewal process identified as Black or Latino, compared to the proportions of Black (22% vs 16.4%) and Latino (33.5% vs 22.7%) Medicaid enrollees.  

“Our study found that Black and Hispanic people are twice as likely to lose Medicaid insurance for reasons that can be addressed by systems improvements,” senior author Dr. Jane Zhu, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine, told an OHSU news outlet. 

Consequences of Medicaid Loss 

While applying for Medicaid and CHIP coverage can be done throughout the year, affordable alternatives available through the Marketplace provided by the Affordable Care Act are limited by an open enrollment period.  

Those who didn’t qualify or encountered process-related issues can always try to enroll again, but the lapse in coverage and lack of options could mean having to pay out of pocket or delaying medical care due to the cost.  

For some, the cost of medical care without insurance outweighs the benefits of seeking immediate treatment, leading to worse health outcomes for the uninsured.  

Latinos are particularly vulnerable to the disparities surrounding equitable healthcare.  

Insurance is just one of the many barriers Latinos face in seeking healthcare, including discrimination, transportation to health facilities, and language barriers. 

The millions of Latinos who once relied on Medicaid for insurance may forgo treatments and care, ration medication, and skip out on potentially life-saving screenings for diseases such as cancer. 

Insurance plays a huge role in someone’s health and is one reason why Latinos have some of the highest rates of cancer with Latino cancer cases expected to rise by 142% in the coming years. 

Barriers to Applying for Medicaid and How to Address Them 

One of the main issues impacting Medicaid enrollment is its strict eligibility requirements. 

To qualify for Medicaid, families must make under a certain amount of money, which depends on your state’s requirements.  

Making just a few cents over the limit can be grounds for disqualification.  

Those few cents may make a difference in eligibility, but they make an even bigger difference when you’re having to pay for a high cost of living and medical insurance while receiving a low wage. 

There have been efforts to expand Medicaid coverage in several states, but many have rejected any attempts to expand.   

Other barriers to enrollment include difficulties completing the application, eligibility uncertainty, and worries about immigration status.  

Citizenship can be a huge barrier for seeking insurance and help from other assistance programs. 

“Immigrants are afraid and are misunderstanding a complex situation,” Joan Maya Mazelis, a sociologist at Rutgers University-Camden, said in the Philadelphia Inquirier.“But they don’t want to draw attention to themselves, and so they lose food stamps, which make a huge difference to their health. It’s depressing.” 

To address these barriers, researchers suggested states simplify the renewal process, which includes repopulating renewal forms with enrollee information and allowing more time for forms to be turned in. 

“Addressing these barriers may include more transparent race and ethnicity data reporting, expedited administrative processes, expanded renewal assistance, and prioritized redeterminations for beneficiaries most likely to be ineligible,” researchers wrote.  

Keep Tabs on the Barriers to Healthcare Impacting Your Community 

Did you know that where you live, what food you have access to, and the amount of money you make can determine your access to healthcare? 

Equitible access to healthcare means you live near a place to seek medical care or have the means to travel there, you can afford the costs to receive care or have insurance to pay for it, and you live in area that has healthy food options, which can decrease your risk for serious health conditions like cancer and diabetes.  

What does health equity look like in your community?  

Download a free Salud America! Heath Equity Report Card, to explore the barriers to healthcare where you live. 

The Health Equity Report Card gives you an idea of how many mental health providers and dentists are in your area, the number of primary and prenatal care providers per capita there are, and the rate of diseases and illnesses such as cancer, asthma, and heart disease in your community.  

You can use the maps and data contained in the Health Equity Report Card to make a case for a public health initiative or compare your community’s results to other places to advocate for local change.  


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