March 14, 2003

Half of All Hispanics in America Were Uninsured at Some Point in 2001-2002

Health fairs nationwide offer free services as part of ‘Cover the Uninsured Week’

WASHINGTON, DC - Not having health insurance may be a more common occurrence for Hispanics in America than previously thought. A new report estimates that more than half of all Hispanics went without health insurance for all or part of 2001 and 2002.

The report was released to kickoff Cover the Uninsured Week – an unprecedented national effort co-chaired by Former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter to raise awareness about the plight of the nation’s uninsured.

Some of the most influential organizations in the country, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, are cosponsoring the week, which runs March 10-16. More than 100 additional organizations have lent their support to the week, including major Hispanic organizations, the National Council of La Raza, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Alliance for Hispanic Health, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, National Minority Business Council, and others.

The report estimates that approximately 75 million Americans under 65 years of age were uninsured sometime in 2001 and 2002. The report further estimates that almost two-thirds (65%) were uninsured for at least six months, and nearly one-quarter (24%) were uninsured throughout the two-year period.

The report also estimates that over half (52%) of America’s uninsured were non-Hispanic whites. However, racial minorities were more likely to be uninsured than whites. More than half of all Hispanics (52.2%) and almost two out of five African Americans (39.3%) were uninsured at some point in the two-year period, compared to less than a quarter of whites (23.3%).

“Being uninsured in America is a very common and very risky experience, especially for Hispanic Americans,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Not having health insurance, even for a short period of time, means that millions of Hispanics are forced to put their physical and financial health in jeopardy. Because they do not have health insurance, uninsured Hispanics delay needed health care, live with illness, and often die sooner as a result.”

The report was prepared by Families USA for Cover the Uninsured Week. Families USA worked with The Lewin Group to develop the data in the report.

Cover the Uninsured Week activities will draw attention to the plight of the uninsured through more than 600 events taking place in communities from coast to coast. To increase awareness of the plight of the uninsured, organizers are holding health fairs, town hall meetings, campus activities, discussions between business and labor leaders, community-wide interfaith prayer breakfasts, and more to help people learn about the issue, begin reasoned and constructive discussions about solutions and find local resources.

The week is the result of a unique partnership of diverse national organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“Being uninsured takes a tremendous toll on the Latino community, more than any other ethnic group in America” said Arnoldo Resendez, Vice President, Office of Special and International Projects, National Council of La Raza. “Latino Americans are forced to put their physical and financial health at risk, since high medical bills often rob Hispanic families of their savings.” 

Medical studies show that there are serious consequences when uninsured people delay medical treatment and preventive screenings. Uninsured women with breast cancer are twice as likely to die as women with breast cancer who have health insurance. Men without health insurance are nearly 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer at a later, more dangerous stage than men with insurance.

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