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Rate Of Uninsured Latino Children Reaches All-Time Low

The rate of Hispanic children without health insurance reached an all-time low in the first year of the Affordable Care Act, according to a report released Friday.

The report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and the National Council of La Raza found that the number of uninsured Hispanic children dropped from 2 million in 2013 to 1.7 million in 2014, the year most of the ACA provisions were implemented.

The rate of uninsured Hispanic kids dropped to a historic low of 9.7 percent in 2014, down from 11.5 percent in 2013.

Some states are making more progress than others; the report showed the gains were highest in the states that had actively taken steps to cover more children and adults through Medicaid expansion.

Eleven states saw both the number and percentage of uninsured Hispanic children drop significantly between 2013 and 2014. Many of these states have taken steps to expand coverage for both Hispanic children and their parents, including raising the income eligibility levels for health insurance programs like Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

In Nevada, the uninsured rate for Hispanic children dropped from 20 percent in 2013 to 13.3 percent in 2014, giving the state the distinction of achieving the largest decline in the country.

Lisa Mariani of the Children's Advocacy Alliance in Nevada credited this achievement to the work done by a number of people in the state, including Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval who in 2014 expanded Medicaid under the guidelines laid out in the Affordable Care Act.

"The support that Gov. Sandoval showed by accepting Medicaid funding to offer affordable coverage to more uninsured parents and other adults … has made a difference in the lives of children and families, because we know that when parents have health coverage their kids are more likely to be insured too," she said.

Nevada's efforts contrast with states like Texas, Florida and Georgia, which did not expand its Medicaid programs. Georgia and Texas had uninsured rates four times higher than New York. Arizona is the only state in the country to have closed its children's health insurance (CHIP) program.

But overall, the gains in some of the states are helping to close the gap in health care coverage between Hispanic children and their peers, but Latino kids are the highest uninsured group. Nationally, 6 percent of children were uninsured in 2014, almost 3 percentage points less than Hispanic children.

Steven Lopez, manager of NCLR's Health Policy Project, said providing health care coverage to Hispanic children is not only important for their health and well-being, but it also benefits the United States. He noted that Hispanic children are the fastest growing segment of the nation's child population and that by 2050 one-third of the U.S. workforce will be Hispanic.

"Given these demographic projections, the future well-being and success of our nation is linked to that of the Latino community," Lopez said.

Sonya Schwartz, who co-authored the report, said the vast majority of Hispanic children who remain uninsured are U.S. citizens and most are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP.

"This report points to the need to remove more barriers to coverage, and find ways to get the whole family covered so that Hispanic children can grow up healthy and more financially secure," she said.

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