Health coverage varies widely among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. As a group, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic whites. Specific ethnic groups face extremely high rates of uninsurance: From 2004 to 2006, 24% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and 31% of Korean Americans were uninsured.
High Rates of Uninsured
The high rate of uninsurance in several Asian American ethnic groups is due in part to high employment in or ownership of small businesses that do not offer health insurance benefits. For example, more than half of Korean Americans work in businesses with less than 25 employees. Yet, only half of employees in such firms receive coverage through their employer. As a result, Korean Americans have one of the lowest rates (49%) of employer-sponsored health coverage among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, compared to South Asians who have the highest rate at 75%.
Public programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program play an important role in reducing uninsurance rates among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Expansions in these programs have helped decrease the number of uninsured within low-income communities who could not otherwise afford health coverage.
Language and Cultural Barriers
Many Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders that qualify for public programs remain uninsured because of language and cultural barriers in the enrollment process, misinformation about eligibility, and other family hardships such as food and housing insecurity. Others do not qualify even if they are low-income or legal immigrants.