The study, conducted by the Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Episcopal Health Foundation, found that approximately 920,000 Hispanics ages 18 to 64 are eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act but don't enroll in the plans. About 2 million Hispanics remain uninsured in Texas.
Vivian Ho, co-author of the report and chair of health economics at Rice's Baker Institute, said the high cost of premiums is likely a key reason why more Hispanics don't enroll.
“The only way to lower insurance premiums is to lower healthcare costs,” Ho said. “We have to demand more efficiency from physicians and hospitals in order to control healthcare costs. Unless we do that we're not going to be able to stop this problem.” Ho said the move towards value-based reimbursement may help lower costs.
Ho also suggested that more community outreach would help increase enrollment. She said Hispanics often don't participate in the exchange because they don't understand the opportunities available or they only speak Spanish. Places like churches and libraries should help educate citizens, Ho said.
Despite this, Hispanics in Texas enrolled in ACA plans at twice the rate of white residents. Researchers found 21% of insured Hispanics are covered by ACA plans compared to 11% of whites. The number of uninsured Hispanics in Texas has dropped by 30% since the ACA went into effect.
The report also found that 51% of uninsured Hispanics have annual incomes 139% below the federal poverty line but don't qualify for Medicaid because Texas was one of the states that didn't expand eligibility. “There has been substantial enrollment in states that expanded Medicaid,” Ho said. “We are unable to take advantage of that in Texas.”
The researchers estimate 780,000 Hispanics in Texas are not living in the U.S. legally and therefore aren't eligible for coverage.
The data was analyzed from the Health Reform Monitoring Survey, which collects ACA data from states twice a year.