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Healthy Hispanics In California Could Help Reduce State Health Care Costs

2007-10-10 14:24

Health Care Costs

"If properly incorporated, the inclusion of a few million more healthy,employed, low-service-use Latinos into the health insurance pool wouldprovide a timely 'shock absorber' for the costs of the inevitable babyboomer crunch" over the next 20 to 30 years in California, DavidHayes-Bautista, professor of medicine at University of California-Los Angeles and author of "La Nueva California: Latinos in the Golden State," writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

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Accordingto Hayes-Bautista, a "tidal wave of aging baby boomers is crashing downon our already troubled health care system, threatening to overwhelmour operating rooms ... and bankrupt insurers that will have to pay forlengthy recoveries from cancer and strokes." However, including moreHispanics in the health insurance pool could "help mitigate theapproaching crisis," he adds. Compared with whites, Hispanics havelower mortality rates from heart disease, cancer and stroke -- the topcauses of death in the U.S., Hayes-Bautista says. He writes thatHispanics also have an infant mortality rate almost equal to whites, alonger life expectancy than whites and a lower risk of chronic illness-- with the exception of diabetes -- than whites. At the same time,Hispanics are among the "most likely to be shut out of the insurancepool," see "doctors far less than whites do and utiliz[e] hospitals farless as well," he adds.

While Hispanics "do make substantialhealth care expenditures, ... these dollars are out of pocket, outsidethe insurance pool," Hayes-Bautista states. Many Hispanics work forsmall businesses that do not offer health insurance and have incomestoo high to qualify for public health insurance, according toHayes-Bautista. He adds, "Health insurance works best when the risks ofthe few are spread over the gains of the many," noting that the agingbaby boomers are the riskiest population, while Hispanics on the wholeare younger and healthier (Hayes-Bautista, Los Angeles Times, 10/6).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser WeeklyHealth Disparities Report,search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.