In 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau found that over 1-in-4 Latino adults (26.4%) and almost half of Latino children (49.4% or approximately 8.6 million children) depend on Medicaid and/or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to access their health care.
Under health care reform, Medicaid eligibility will be expanded and over 6 million Latinos stand poised to achieve access to health coverage through these programs jointly financed by the federal and state governments.
Currently, demonstrating a low income is necessary but not sufficient to access Medicaid. Depending on one’s income level in relation to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), one would have to prove either disability, pregnancy, have young children or other factors.
What are the new changes to Medicaid because of health reform?
In January of 2014, rules governing Medicaid eligibility will be changed. Excluding undocumented immigrants and permanent residents who have had that status for five years or less, those under the age of 65 (children, pregnant women, parents, and adults without dependent children) with incomes up to 133% of the Federal Poverty Level who are not eligible for Medicare will be eligible for Medicaid.And while undocumented immigrants and permanent residents who have had that status for five years or less will continue to be excluded from Medicaid coverage under health reform, states have the option of extending Medicaid coverage to legally residing children and pregnant women.
The federal government will also increase federal funding (also called “matching”) for state Medicaid programs that cover without co-pay preventive health care services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Health Task Force and immunizations recommended by the Federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
And last but not least, under health reform, new eligibility rules also apply to U.S. Territories, including Puerto Rico, and they will receive a total of $6.3 billion for Medicaid programs.
Why is expanded Medicaid coverage good for Latinas’ reproductive health?
Medicaid covers a wide range of health services for Latinas of reproductive age.
- contraceptive services and supplies
- STI testing, treatment, and counseling
- Pap tests
- Prenatal care, including prenatal supplements, ultrasounds, and amniocentesis screening
- Childbirth including vaginal and C-section deliveries
- Postpartum care for sixty days
- Smoking cessation treatments
Additionally, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act allows states to extend Medicaid coverage for cancer treatments to uninsured women who have been diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer, although state eligibility rules and access vary widely from state to state.
This coverage is essential to Latinas as pregnancy care costs are on average $8,800.00 – a price that can escalate into the tens of thousands of dollars if complications arise.
Health reform also calls for increased support for nurse midwives, birth attendants and free-standing birth centers, which can be a great approach to delivering care to Latinas marginalized by the health care system and reducing reproductive health disparities.
Additionally, expanded access to health care for children is of utmost importance to secure healthy and full development of young Latinos.