October 2011 - Released in partnership with the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, Families USA, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the National Medical Association, and the National Urban League Policy Institute.
For decades, researchers have documented that black and Latino people in the United States bear a disproportionate burden of chronic diseases. Not only are they more likely than whites to suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers, they are also more likely to get sicker from some of these conditions—to experience complications, to have poorer health outcomes, and even to die prematurely.
Medicaid, the state and federally funded health insurance program for low-income people, has historically played a critical role for people of color, providing coverage for millions of blacks and Latinos of all ages. While Medicaid covers many more white people, because blacks and Latinos tend to have lower incomes than whites, they are more than twice as likely to rely on Medicaid for health coverage. In both black and Latino communities, a little more than one in four people relies on Medicaid for their health care; in contrast, Medicaid covers fewer than one in eight whites. Medicaid helps roughly half of all black and Latino children get a healthy start in life. And it helps black and Latino seniors and people with disabilities who need long-term care.
Medicaid’s critical role in providing access to health care for blacks and Latinos, coupled with the heavy burden of chronic disease borne by these groups, means that Medicaid coverage can truly mean the difference between life and death for blacks and Latinos with serious health care needs.
To get a sense of how important Medicaid is for blacks and Latinos with serious health care needs, this report looks at subsets of those groups: blacks and Latinos with cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease, or heart disease or stroke who rely on Medicaid for their health coverage. (All of the individuals whose conditions are captured in the data in this report have received a diagnosis of their condition from a health care professional.) The conditions were defined as follows:
- Cancer: Includes all cancers except for non-melanoma skin cancers;
- Diabetes: Includes type 1 and type 2 diabetes;
- Chronic lung disease: Includes a range of lung diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis; and
- Heart disease or stroke: Includes a range of cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attacks, heart valve disorders, and stroke.
These are people whose health care needs require regular medical attention. Often, these conditions can be managed, or sometimes even cured, if treated in a timely manner. Medicaid helps make it possible for these individuals to see a doctor, to fill prescriptions, and to keep up with screenings and other preventive care so that they can act quickly and avoid life-threatening complications if their illness gets worse or recurs. Without Medicaid, many of these seriously ill people would not be able to afford the care they need. For them, Medicaid coverage is critical. Federal or state cuts to the Medicaid program would truly put them at risk.
To better understand the importance of Medicaid for people with serious health care needs, Families USA contracted with The Lewin Group to develop national and state-level estimates of the number of blacks and Latinos with the health conditions listed above, as well as their insurance status. For this analysis, The Lewin Group analyzed data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), which is administered by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS). (A detailed Methodology is available.)