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Researchers Study Demographics Of Holes In Coverage

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More than 25% of African Americans and nearly 50% of Hispanic Americans lacked health insurance on at least one day in 2006.

Researchers at the Commonwealth Fund, New York, reported those findings in a summary of results in recent telephone interviews of 3,535 U.S. adults ages 18 years and older.

In addition to lacking stable health coverage, the Hispanic American and African American survey participants were considerably less likely than other participants to have a “medical home,” the researchers say.

A medical home is a place where health care is accessible, continuous, family-centered and coordinated.

African American and Hispanic American survey participants were less likely to be insured than white participants because they are less likely to get coverage through their employers, the researchers found.

Only 43% of the Hispanic American participants and 54% of the African participants said they got their health coverage from their employers, compared with 68% of the white participants and 71% of the Asian American participants.

Perhaps, because of lack of stable health coverage, only 15% of the Hispanic American participants said they have a source of care that meets the requirements for a medical home, compared with 26% of the African American participants and 28% of the white participants, the researchers reported.

For the survey participants who do have medical homes, having a medical home appears to reduce or even eliminate disparities in access to quality care, the Commonwealth Fund researchers said.

The researchers found, for example, that about 70% of the participants in all ethnic groups who have medical homes, said they had had their cholesterol levels checked in the past 5 years.

“Insurance coverage helps people gain access to health care, but the next thing you have to ask is ‘access to what?” said Dr. Anne Beal, a Commonwealth Fund senior program officer who is the lead author for the study.

“This survey shows that, if you can provide both insurance and access to a true medical home, racial and ethnic difference in getting needed medical care are often eliminated,” Beal said.