August 28, 2015
By Cydney McFarland
Hispanics in the United States visit the doctor less than any other racial or ethnic group. According to a study by the Census Bureau in 2010, 42 percent of Hispanics didn't see a doctor in the last year. A lack of health insurance along with language and cultural barriers cause many Hispanics to delay treatment.
Hispanics suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and asthma at higher rates and are also more likely to be uninsured. These issues are even more prevalent in undocumented immigrants.
In the U.S., Hispanics are almost three times more likely to be uninsured than whites, according to a study by the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group. About 29 percent of the more than 5 million Hispanics in the U.S. lacked health insurance, according to the Center for Disease Control in 2012. Of those uninsured, the majority are undocumented.
"We still have issues with people being uninsured because they don't qualify for help or it's too expensive," said Adriana Flores, a nurse at the Health West Clinic in Aberdeen.
In Aberdeen, more than half of the population is Hispanic, according to the 2010 census. Like many Hispanics in Idaho, much of the population works low-wage jobs or work for small, local farms, especially since the closure of the Simplot plant in 2014.
According to a study done by the Commonwealth Fund, Hispanics in the U.S. are more likely to work low-wage jobs — where they are half as likely to get health insurance as their white counterparts — or for small businesses — which often don't provide health insurance for their employees because of the high cost — or are self-employed.
However, employment also disqualifies you from many public health insurance programs, leaving many of those low-wage workers uninsured. The undocumented status of many Hispanics also disqualifies them from programs such as Medicaid, and fear of deportation keep many from applying for insurance through President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. This leaves millions of American-born children with undocumented parents without insurance as well.
In Aberdeen, they have programs that help lower the cost of some basic health care tests. Drive for the Cure covers mammograms for women who have no insurance, and a patient assistance program from AmeriCorps provides medications for lower prices. They also partner with the Treasure Valley Laboratory and Portneuf Medical Imaging to provide medical testing and scans at a lower cost.
Language barriers also make it difficult for non-English speaking Hispanics to navigate the health care system, making everything from getting insurance to seeing your doctor a little more difficult. In Idaho, Hispanics born outside of the U.S. tend to be older — about 37.
"Communities out there are settling in," said Liz Cartwright, a professor who teaches medical anthropology at Idaho State University. "You have this hidden population, people in their 40s or 50s who crossed the border and didn't learn English and now rely on their kids."
In Aberdeen, the Health West clinic recently hired a bilingual counselor who comes in every Tuesday. They also have a staff there to help people sign up for insurance through the Affordable Health Care Act or other public programs. However, the language barrier doesn't just affect older immigrants.
"We do have a lot of young kids who just came from Mexico who don't speak English," said Flores.
With a bilingual staff, the Health West clinic in Aberdeen is fairly well-equipped to serve their population and work around many insurance issues or language barriers. But Flores said there are cultural barriers that tend to keep Hispanics, especially men, out of the clinic.
"Men have that pride, that machismo, and they don't like to go to the doctor," said Flores. "They also fall into the situation where they have to work and don't get time off."
Flores said they are able to build more of a relationship with the women and children. Women who have their children there tend to bring them back from primary care. Many of the children also qualify for public health care even if their parents don't, and it is most often the mother who brings them in for checkups.
Despite all this, Hispanics tend to live longer than any other ethnic or racial group in the U.S. — more than a year longer than whites and two years longer than African Americans, according to statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics in 2010. They also tend to be more positive about their health with only 9 percent of Hispanics rating their health as "fair to poor" as opposed to 10 percent of whites and 13 percent of blacks.
However, Hispanics do still suffer from higher rates of chronic diseases. According to the CDC, cancer, heart disease, accidental injuries, stroke and diabetes were the five leading causes of death for Hispanics in the U.S. Asthma, HIV/AIDS, obesity, teen pregnancy and infant mortality are also issues that the CDC said disproportionately affect the Hispanic population.
Source: Idaho State Journal