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Report: Cuts to Medicaid could hurt Latinos most
by Joshua H. Silavent
Jul 22, 2011 | 1902 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO – Spending cuts to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would disproportionately affect Latinos, according to a new report from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

The findings come at a time when Democrats and Republicans in Washington are battling over a budget deal that would raise the debt ceiling prior to an Aug. 2 deadline, and entitlement spending, particularly with regard to health care, remains a major sticking point to any compromise.

Republican proposals to cut Medicaid, for example, would reduce federal funding to current state Medicaid programs by 5 percent in 2013, 15 percent in 2014 and 33 percent in 2021.

The NCLR, a Latino rights group, estimates that 12.8 million Latinos would lose health coverage if these cuts were approved, which is equivalent to the amount of current enrollees from this demographic.

Meanwhile, if the debt ceiling is not lifted, the federal government will default on about 44 percent of its bills, or $134 billion, according to a Bipartisan Policy Center report.

Medicaid payments could be forsaken as a result. And that prospect has advocates concerned about the potential for an increase in the number of uninsured Latinos, which already total nearly 32 percent of the demographic in Nevada.

On Tuesday, advocates held a conference call to address the possible impact of cuts, calling proposals frivolous, irresponsible and nothing more than “political gamesmanship.”

“Medicaid is the key lifeline for Latinos across the country,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a national nonpartisan health care advocacy group.

Latinos are twice as likely to be uninsured as non-Hispanic whites.

In addition, about 26 percent of Latinos nationwide are covered through either Medicaid or CHIP, a figure on par with non-Hispanic blacks. And for children under age 18, that figure jumps to nearly 50 percent.

“Medicaid is a program that helps mitigate disparities,” said Jennifer Ng’andu, deputy director of the Health Policy Project at the NCLR.

In Nevada, 13.4 percent of all Hispanics are covered by Medicaid or CHIP while 26 percent of those under age 18 are covered.

Advocates are worried that lack of health coverage will inflame incidences of disease and illness, such as diabetes and childhood asthma, two common afflictions among Latinos.

Moreover, the threat to low-income families who rely on Medicaid and CHIP is likely to become more pronounced.

“We are deeply troubled,” said Eric Rodriguez, vice president of research, advocacy and legislation at the NCLR. “No issue is more crucial than health care.”
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