Nearly Half of Uninsured Minority Parents Unaware of Medicaid Eligibility

Unmet healthcare needs create significant financial burdens on overall system.

A recent study found that nearly half of minority parents are unaware that their uninsured children are eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Minority children have the highest uninsured rates in the United States with substantial health issues and little access to care that causes many unmet healthcare needs. Additionally, uninsured children become a financial burden to their families because of poor health.

“Our findings indicate an urgent need for better parental education about Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP),” said study author Glenn Flores, MD. “The findings also indicate a need to improve Medicaid/CHIP outreach and enrollment.”

A study published in the International Journal for Equity in Health enrolled 267 uninsured Medicaid and CHIP-eligible African-American and Latino children from 97 urban Texas community sites.

Researchers examined several factors, including:

  • sociodemographic characteristics
  • duration of not having insurance
  • reasons the child is uninsured
  • health status
  • unmet needs
  • special healthcare needs
  • access to dental and medical care
  • use of health services
  • quality of care
  • satisfaction with care
  • financial burden
  • out-of-pocket costs

The results of the study found that 49% of parents were aware that their child was eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. Sixty-four percent did not have a primary care provider and 5% had never been insured. The mean uninsured time for participants in the study was 14 months.

The most common reason for loss of insurance was because of insurance expiring and individuals not reapplying. Additionally, high insurance costs was the most common reason for individuals who were never insured.

Thirty-eight percent of children had suboptimal health and 66% had special healthcare needs. Unmet healthcare needs account for 73% of healthcare, 70% of mental healthcare, 67% of mobility devices, 61% of dental, 57% of specialty care, and 46% of vision.

About 83% of parents were worried about their child’s health more than others and, as a result, 35% of parents had financial problems, 23% had to cut work hours, and 10% stopped working altogether.

Uninsured Latino children faced specific challenges such as parental worry, out-of-pocket costs, lack of primary care provider, regular source of preventive care, or 24-hour phone sick-care coverage.

Challenges uninsured African-American children faced were high rates of asthma and ADHD, access to same day sick visits without appointments, unmet acute-care and prescription needs, phone advice from healthcare provider, higher rates for ER visits, providers’ lack of understanding of parental preferences for raising children, and other income needs for medical expenses.

“Our data indicate that special efforts should be made to target populations at highest risk of parental unawareness of children's Medicaid/CHIP eligibility, including those uninsured the longest, those at the higher end of income eligibility, and Latinos,” Flores said.