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February 14, 2008

Study shows Latinos willing to pay for cross-border California health insurance

Research out of UC Berkeley points to cross-border health insurance as a way to expand health coverage to Mexican immigrants living in the United States, and a county health staffer plans to learn more about it.

The study, by Arturo Vargas Bustamante, a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley, found:

• 62 percent of Mexican immigrants surveyed said they would support a cross-border insurance plan.

• 57 percent said they'd pay $75-$125 per month if services in Mexico were provided in public hospitals.

• Mexican immigrants in the U.S. sent $20 billion to their relatives back home in 2005, primarily to help cover family health care expenses.

• Those who sent money for family health care expenses strongly supported cross-border insurance.

The study was released as the Pew Research Center unveiled projections that Latino population in America would more than double from 14 percent in 2005 to 29 percent by 2050.

"The Mexican-born population in the U.S. has the lowest share of health insurance coverage than any other foreign-born group," said Gil Ojeda, director of UC Berkeley's California Program on Access to Care and Health Initiative of the Americas, which co-funded the study.

California is the only state to offer cross-border health insurance.

About 50,000 Mexican immigrants living between Los Angeles and San Diego are enrolled, a small percentage of the estimated 11 million Mexican immigrants who live or work in the U.S.

Carmen Robles, a senior health analyst for Santa Cruz County, said she plans to attend a conference Feb. 28-29 in Berkeley where the cross-border approach will be discussed.

Dr. Jose Chibras of Salud Para la Gente, which treats many Latino families in Watsonville, said he was not familiar with the existing cross-border health insurance program. He had a lot of questions.

"Who's going to pay for it?" he asked. "What would the reimbursements be for the physicians? What does it cover? What could a person actually get for that amount of money? Are the patients able to afford $150 a month? That is a lot of money to put out, $1,500-$1,600 a year. And who would be eligible?"

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Posted by healthinsurance at February 14, 2008 08:23 PM

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