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Overcoming the Odds: Access to Care for Immigrant Children in Working Poor Families in California

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Objectives: To explore the extent to which, among working poor families, uninsured immigrant children experience more barriers to care than uninsured nonimmigrants, and compare these differences to those of insured children. Methods: We used data from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey, a randomized, population-based telephone survey conducted from November 2000 through September 2001. Financial and nonfinancial access to health care and utilization of health services were examined for 3,978 nonimmigrant and 462 immigrant children and adolescents under the age of 18 years. We compared differences in crude rates across four subgroups (insured immigrants, uninsured immigrants, insured nonimmigrants, uninsured nonimmigrants) and in adjusted models controlling for socioeconomic and immigration characteristics, parental language, health status, and other demographic factors. Results: More immigrant than nonimmigrant children lacked health insurance at the time of the interview (44% vs. 17%, p < 0.0001). Among the uninsured, immigrants had higher odds of perceiving discrimination (11% vs. 5%, p < 0.05) and postponing emergency room (ER) (16% vs. 7%, p < 0.05) and dental care (40% vs. 30%, p < 0.05) after controlling for covariates. Among the insured, immigrants fared worse on almost every access and utilization outcome. Among insured immigrants, child and parent undocumented status and having a non-English-speaking parent contributed to missed physician and ER visits. Conclusions: Disparities in access and use remain for immigrant poor children despite public insurance eligibility expansions. Insurance does not guarantee equitable health care access and use for undocumented children. Financial and nonfinancial barriers to health care for immigrant children must be removed if we are to address disparities among minority children.

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Funding for this study was obtained from the DHHS Agency for Health care Research and Quality (grant # HS13411-01), the UC Berkeley Center for Latino Policy Research, and the UC Berkeley Center for Child and Youth Policy. The authors thank Lora Santiago for editorial assistance.

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Correspondence to Sylvia Guendelman PhD.



Appendix: Study Outcome Variables and Corresponding CHIS Questions

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Guendelman, S., Angulo, V., Wier, M. et al. Overcoming the Odds: Access to Care for Immigrant Children in Working Poor Families in California. Matern Child Health J 9, 351–362 (2005).

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