Getting Our Arms Around It: Which Latinos Would Be Affected by Changes to Medicare, Anyway?
January 26 2012
By Kara D. Ryan, Senior Research Analyst, Health Policy Project
This week has been a busy one. On Monday, House Republicans hinted at the potential legislative agenda for the year, and Tuesday night, President Obama delivered his third State of the Union address to the nation. One area of agreement is that both the White House and congressional Republicans have renewed their vows to take on deficit reduction. And one of the most popular targets in that realm is always entitlement reform—particularly changes or cuts to the Medicare program.
It’s clear that we have to have a real conversation about the role of public health coverage programs in getting our fiscal house in order. So we need to ask: what would Medicare reforms mean for Latinos’ access to health care?
What would happen to Nynah G., a Latina from Chicago living with a disability, who has health coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, and a supplemental coverage plan? At the time that she wrote to NCLR, her health coverage through these programs meant that she was the only member of her family with access to affordable health insurance:
“I am a disabled person with Medicare and Medicaid and private insurance paid by Medicare for me, but when it comes to my family, my son is in need of good insurance and I cannot afford it. My husband also needs insurance and we cannot afford it.”
We need to better understand how Nynah and other Latinos could be affected by changes that would completely reshape or drastically cut back Medicare.
Today, to shed some light on these issues, NCLR released a statistical brief, The Role of Medicare in Hispanics’ Health Coverage. In it, we take a closer look at the 3.5 million Latinos enrolled in Medicare—a small but vulnerable share of the community. Here’s what might surprise you: although most policymakers talk about Medicare’s role in protecting seniors (which is certainly the case for more than 2.5 million Hispanics over age 65), it’s also providing coverage and health care access to more than a million Latino children and adults with serious health needs.
Some of the questions we should be asking about policy proposals coming down the pike:
- What would be the implications of Medicare cuts or reforms to the estimated 600,000 disabled and seriously ill children covered by the program, more than two-fifths (43%) of whom are Latino?
- What would changes to the Medicare Advantage program mean for Hispanics when nearly 40% of Latino Medicare enrollees have supplemental coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan, two times the rate of non-Hispanic Whites with Medicare?
- How would reforms affect Latino “dual-eligibles,” given that more than one-quarter (26%) of Hispanic Medicare enrollees are also covered by Medicaid?
We’re expecting this debate to intensify, so we hope that this brief helps policymakers and advocates to evaluate proposals as they circulate. Stay tuned for more analysis from NCLR later this year on Hispanics’ use of services through Medicare, and download the updated version of our popular fact sheet, The Meaning of Medicaid: An Updated State-by-State Breakdown.
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Issues: Health and Nutrition, Health, Health Care Disparities, Immigrant Health
Geography:California, Far West, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Texas