Changes to Medicare Could Jeopardize Health Care Access for Vulnerable Latinos

January 26, 2012 -- With more discussion of budget cuts, lawmakers have begun floating policy proposals that would substantially reshape or cut back on health programs critical to vulnerable Latinos, such as Medicare and Medicaid.  According to a statistical brief released today by NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the Medicare program provides health coverage for not only Latino seniors, but also more than one million disabled and seriously ill Hispanic children and working-age adults. 

“Policymakers often pledge support to protect Medicare for the elderly, and that will be critical for the Latino community—but little mention is made that the program is also serving young and vulnerable populations with significant health care needs,” said Kara Ryan, Senior Research Analyst for the Health Policy Project at NCLR and author of the report.  “Latinos make up the largest share (43%) of children covered by Medicare, who, by virtue of being on this program, include some of the nation’s sickest children.”

The Role of Medicare in HispanicsHealth Coverage offers an in-depth analysis of how Medicare serves the Latino population at both the state and national level, including a state-by-state breakdown of the number of Hispanics covered by this program.  Overall, Medicare serves approximately 3.5 million Hispanics, a population that is relatively small but also incredibly at risk.

“Too many are eager to make hasty changes or cuts to fix gaps in the budget, but then look away when faced with the harsh reality of who will feel the most impact,” said Jennifer Ng’andu, Deputy Director of the NCLR Health Policy Project.  “Ultimately, these budget decisions are about whether a mother can afford to take her sick child to the doctor or will end up in the more expensive emergency room.  Getting to a dollar amount without looking at the true costs to American families often means that critical services and benefits will be lost for patients who need them desperately.”

The publication of this statistical brief coincides with the updated release of an NCLR fact sheet, The Meaning of Medicaid, which contains up-to-date statistics that track the number of Latinos covered by Medicaid and by the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) nationally and in each state.  Together these papers also highlight another noticeable trend:  Latinos are disproportionately covered by both Medicaid and Medicare, or “dual-eligible.”  Numerous plans to restrict coverage protections for the dual-eligible community have been proposed throughout recent budget discussions.  

“We wholeheartedly agree that action must be taken to make our nation financially sound,” added Ng’andu.  “But we have to take the time to consider the consequences of these difficult decisions, taking care to ensure that they do not fall on the backs of those who are left defenseless because they were left out of the discussion.”

NCLR is committed to maximizing health coverage access, including both the Medicaid and Medicare programs, for Latinos and all Americans, and will continue to work toward building an agenda for strong health care reform implementation.  

NCLR—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans.  For more information on NCLR, please visit or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

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