Objective: To examine the determinants of health insurance coverage for Latinos in the United States and how different targeted strategies for health care reform differentially affect the country's major ethnic groups, focusing on the implications for the Latino population.
Design: Data from the 1980 and 1990 Current Population Surveys were used to compare the insurance status of nonelderly (< 65 years) Latinos with the Anglo (non-Hispanic white), black, and Asian and other populations by estimating the attributable fraction for selected covariates. The effects of health care reform strategies on the coverage of the major ethnic groups were simulated from these data.
Main outcome measures: Percentage uninsured, percentage insured by Medicaid, and attributable fraction for covariates.
Results: Latinos have the worst health insurance coverage of any ethnic group in the country. Approximately 39% of Latinos are uninsured compared with 13.8% for the Anglo and 24% for the black population. Providing coverage to all the poor could reduce the uninsured rate for Anglos by about 23%, whereas the reduction among Latinos could be about 37% and among blacks about 42%. Similar reductions could be achieved by covering all workers and their minor dependents. Regardless of the approach to reform, however, Latinos would remain with high absolute rates of uninsured.
Conclusions: Differences in Medicaid eligibility, labor force characteristics, and family composition between Latinos and other ethnic groups suggest that policy initiatives may affect Latinos differently. Targeted strategies, such as employer mandates, "pay-or-play" programs, or Medicaid expansions, can improve coverage, but many Latinos could still remain uninsured.