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Why Do Hispanics Have So Little Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

Inquiry Article: Significant Coverage Differences Between Spanish-Speaking and English-Speaking Hispanics

Media Advisory
Nov. 8, 2007

FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Alwyn Cassil (202) 264-3484 or acassil@hschange.org

WASHINGTON, DC—Poor education, lack of citizenship and the inability to speak English-all more common among Spanish-speaking Hispanics-result in lower wages and fewer jobs that offer health insurance, according to an article by Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) researchers in the fall edition of Inquiry.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its support of HSC, the study examined why the proportion of Hispanics with employer health coverage is so much lower than whites’ and why the rapid growth in the Hispanic population hasn’t broadened the gap.

The ability to speak English is a major indicator of whether Hispanics have employer coverage, according to the article by James D. Reschovsky, Ph.D., a senior HSC researcher; Jack Hadley, Ph.D., a visiting senior fellow at HSC and George Mason University professor; and Len Nichols, Ph.D., director of the New America Foundation’s health policy program.

Using data from HSC’s nationally representative Community Tracking Study Household Survey, the researchers found that English-speaking Hispanics are more similar to whites in labor market experiences and employer health coverage than they are to Spanish-speaking Hispanics.

Poor education, lack of citizenship and the inability to speak English—all more common among Spanish speakers-result in lower wages and fewer jobs that offer health coverage, the researchers note. Spanish-speaking Hispanics also appear more sensitive to out-of-pocket premium costs and less likely to take up insurance when offered.

"Our results suggest that an important policy lever for closing the employer-sponsored insurance coverage gap is to increase Hispanic workers’ human capital through both job and English language training," the authors conclude. "English proficiency would improve labor market opportunities, presumably lead to increased incomes, and accelerate acculturation generally."

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The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nation’s changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is funded principally by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

 

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