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Press Release · December 19, 2006

The Changing Face Of Healthcare Realities In California

Differences – and Surprising Similarities – Found Among Immigrant, Racial, Ethnic Groups

SAN FRANCISCO, California, December 19, 2006 — A new study shows that developing healthcare policy in California faces real challenges because of racial, ethnic, immigrant group, and other differences in health insurance, use of healthcare services, and overall health. The picture that emerges contradicts some widely held beliefs about immigrants and health care. Released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), the analysis finds both wide differences and unexpected similarities among children and adults of different groups.

Some of the study’s major findings:

  • There is little difference – by race or ethnicity – in children’s use of hospital emergency rooms and adults’ use of hospitals for overnight stays.
  • Naturalized or undocumented adult immigrants are no more likely, and documented adult immigrants are less likely, than U.S.-born adults to use a hospital for overnight stays.
  • Children with a foreign-born parent are no more likely than children with a U.S-born parent to use an emergency room. And children with a naturalized parent are less likely to do so.
  • Hispanics are more likely than any other group to be uninsured even after adjusting for various characteristics. However, when immigrant status is taken into account, the disparity with whites is no longer significant for adults and shrinks in half for children, from approximately 20 percent to less than 10 percent.
  • Even after adjusting for other characteristics, undocumented adult immigrants are about 30 percent more likely, and documented immigrants are about 15 percent more likely, than U.S.-born adults to lack insurance.
  • Compared with children of U.S.-born parents, non-citizen children who have an undocumented parent are much less likely (68%) than citizen children who have an undocumented parent (24%) to be insured.

These and other findings indicate how critical accurate information is for the current healthcare debate. “Because they both challenge and support some widespread assumptions, the findings underscore how complicated it will be to design an effective health safety net in California,” says PPIC research fellow Marianne Bitler, who co-authored the study with former PPIC research associate Weiyi Shi. “It is important to understand the range and variety of findings about the issue to design policies that address the state’s needs.” The analysis looks at 2000-2001 data from Los Angeles County, the largest county in the nation, and one of the most diverse.

The Public Policy Institute of California is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett.