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By Chris Joyner August 1, 2011

Nearly half of Hispanic children in Georgia rely on Medicaid for health care

In a recent broadcast, WABE-FM (90.1) led into a story on the impact of proposed deficit-cutting measures with a shocking number.

"Forty-one point seven percent of Latino children in Georgia rely on Medicaid programs for health care," the reporter said, before cutting to tape of Jennifer Ng’andu, deputy director of health policy for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.

Ng’andu said a Republican-led proposal in Congress to cut the deficit, in part with $1.4 trillion in cuts to Medicaid over 10 years, would have disproportionate effect on Hispanics because they are more likely to rely on taxpayer-funded health care.

That figure – 41.7 percent – is eye-popping. We wondered if it was accurate. The number comes from La Raza’s report "The Meaning of Medicaid: A State-by-State Breakdown," recently released as a rebuttal to the GOP plan.

It turns out the nexus here is between race or ethnicity and poverty.

More than a quarter of Hispanics in the United States live in poverty, according to the U.S. census. The poverty rate has gotten worse in recent years for everybody, but Hispanics and blacks have the higher percentages of their ranks among the poor.

The census figures do not delve into immigration status -- whether someone is here legally or illegally. Some critics of illegal immigration contend that U.S. taxpayers should not be liable for the medical costs of anyone in the country illegally. This fact-check makes no attempt to wade into that controversy.

Children – defined by the census as people under 18 – also are more likely to be in poverty than any other age category. The most recent figures indicate 20.7 percent of young people meet the federal definition of poverty.

Census figures tie together poverty and a lack of insurance.

The percentage of all people without insurance rose from 15.4 percent in 2008 to 16.7 percent in 2009, according to a report released late last year. That’s 50.7 million people without insurance.
Broken down by race or ethnicity, the census calculates that 32.4 percent of Hispanics are uninsured. That’s significantly higher than blacks (21 percent), Asians (17.2 percent) or whites (12 percent).

Not surprisingly, income affects insurance rates. Nearly 27 percent of people making $25,000 a year or less are uninsured, according to the census.

So, the poor are more likely to be uninsured and Latinos are more likely to be uninsured. But is the number correct?

We contacted the Kaiser Family Foundation, which acts as a clearinghouse for health-related data, to see if the figure quoted for Georgia is correct. According to foundation spokesman Chris Lee, it checks out – or comes very close.

Lee said the figure they came up with is 41 percent even, using a three-year average of census data.

Ng’andu said La Raza used the same source to get its figure. In terms of raw numbers, that’s about 120,000 Latino children in the state relying on Medicaid for health care.

Medicaid is a federal program administered -- and jointly funded -- by the states that provides medical care to low-income people and the disabled, although eligibility varies by state. It covers a wide range of health-related costs, from doctor’s visits to nursing home care.

Nationally, the states and federal government put about $339 billion into Medicaid, with the federal government picking up 57 percent of the total cost, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The program costs Georgia $1.7 billion, and that figure is expected to climb with a planned federal expansion of the program that would add an estimated 650,000 people in 2014. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the additional costs to be around $714 million, while the governor’s office has projected the cost of the expansion at $2.5 billion over the next decade.

Currently, about one in six Georgia residents is enrolled in Medicaid, and most of those are children. La Raza is highlighting the high percentage of Latino children on the Medicaid rolls as an argument against cutting the program to lower the federal deficit.

That’s a subject for political debate, not PolitiFact. For the purposes of this fact-check,  the number in the WABE broadcast appears to be on target.

We rate this claim True.

Our Sources

Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Jessica C. Smith, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-238, "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009," September 2010.

National Council of La Raza, "The Meaning of Medicaid: A State-by-State Breakdown,", retrieved July 22, 2011.

E-mail exchange with Chris Lee, Kaiser Family Foundation, July 20, 2011.

Kaiser Family Foundation, "Key Questions About Medicaid and Its Role in State/Federal Budgets

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Nearly half of Hispanic children in Georgia rely on Medicaid for health care

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