PHILADELPHIA – During the first year of the Affordable Care Act, Pennsylvania made little progress getting more Hispanic children covered with health insurance, according to a new report.

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families says 22,000 Hispanic kids, about 7.5 percent, had no insurance in 2014, a significantly higher rate than other children.

Sonya Schwartz, policy fellow at the center, says getting insurance to all kids is vital because they are the future and healthy children are healthy learners.

“We know that Latino children are the fastest-growing segment of our entire population,” says Schwartz. “They’re growing from one in four children today, to one in three children by 2050. And Hispanic children will be our nation’s future doctors, teachers and workers.”

The report says the vast majority of Hispanic children in Pennsylvania are citizens or legal residents and eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Colleen McCaulley, healthy policy director at Public Citizens for Children and Youth in southeastern Pennsylvania, says the state could do more to better inform parents about the insurance programs that are available.

“Doing more targeted outreach in Spanish, and helping to inform families that participation in these programs does not have consequences on their immigration status,” she says.

McCaulley points out Pennsylvania’s health insurance programs do not disclose information about immigration status.

Nationally, the first year of the Affordable Care Act saw the number of uninsured Hispanic children drop by about 15 percent. But according to Schwartz, that still leaves almost 10 percent with no health insurance.

“There are 1.7 million uninsured Hispanic kids in this country,” Schwartz says. “Two out of three of those kids, or more than 1 million kids, are right now eligible for Medicaid and CHIP, and unenrolled.”

The Georgetown report notes Hispanic children are much more likely to have health insurance in states that have taken multiple steps to expand coverage for both children and parents.

Andrea Sears