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Policy: Health Care

Survey: Many Latino residents don't have health care

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Health Care,Race and Diversity

More Latinos in Montgomery County are reporting they can't afford to see a doctor, according to a new statewide health survey.

About 13.5 percent of the more than 1,000 county residents surveyed in 2011 reported that they were less likely to get routine checkups and screenings because they couldn't afford it. Almost half identified themselves as Hispanics, according to a Maryland Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey.

Alicia Wilson, executive director of La Clinica del Pueblo -- a regional group aimed at helping Latino residents gain access to health care -- said many in the influx of immigrants moving into the Washington area -- specifically Montgomery County -- are unable to access health care and are uneducated in how to get coverage.

According to the county's Latino Health Initiative, the Latino population grew 350 percent from 1980 to 2005, and more than half of county residents identify themselves as a minority.

The median household income is about $60,000 for Hispanic families, compared with $92,909 for the county's households in general, according to U.S. census data.

"The hurdles are really huge for recent immigrants in terms of thinking proactively about obtaining health care," Wilson said. "It's such an afterthought behind paying rent or putting food on the table."

The report -- which is compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state -- is part of a self-reporting survey administered nationwide. The CDC takes a random sampling from every state to compile the risk behavior survey.

For Montgomery County, 13 percent could mean as many as 99,000 people do not visit doctors because they cannot afford it.

Colleen Ryan Smith, senior epidemiologist with the county's Department of Health and Human Services, said the state changed how it administered the survey in 2011, and it is possible more minorities were reached because of it.

She also said she was not surprised by the increase in Hispanic families reporting they were unable to afford health care.

Smith said Montgomery County seems to be at the state average for residents who can't afford to see a doctor, with about 13.1 percent of residents statewide not going. Neighboring Prince George's County had 17.5 percent of its 1,000 respondents saying they did not seek health care because of financial constraints.

"There's a spectrum across the state," Smith said.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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