Latinos' Health Coverage Hit Hardest in Recession, Study Says

PHOTO: Latinos were less likely to see the doctor or pick up prescription medicine during the recession.Gary S. Chapman/Getty
Latinos were less likely to see the doctor or pick up prescription medicine during the recession.

Thousands of Americans lost their jobs during the recession that spanned 2007 to 2009. For some, that also meant losing health insurance. New data indicates that Hispanics and African Americans may have taken the hit the worst.

Although Latinos were more likely to be unemployed than whites during the recession, they also saw the highest loss of wealth during these years, according to recent data from the Pew Hispanic Center. Twelve percent of Hispanics and nearly 15 percent of African Americans were unemployed in 2009, compared with 8.7 percent of whites. Between 2007 and 2009, the median wealth fell 66 percent among Hispanic households, 53 percent among African households, and 16 percent among white households.

So how has this affected health care coverage?

The new study, conducted by Karoline Mortensen and Jie Chen for the American Medical Association, found that Latinos experienced the greatest drop off in office-based physician visits during the two-year period, and were the least likely to fill drug prescriptions. While Latinos were also least likely to pick up prescription drugs before the recession, the ethnic group still saw a drop off in filling prescriptions between 2007 and 2009.

The study also found that there was no difference in the amount that racial/ethnic groups went to the emergency room before and after the recession. But surely, the decision of how to pay for emergency room visits was more complicated for those families who lost health care insurance along with their jobs.