Many people put off seeing a doctor, but Hispanics are the least likely racial or ethnic group to seek medical care, says a new report by the Census Bureau.
While all Americans are visiting the doctor less frequently than a decade ago, the numbers are especially low for Hispanics. Forty-two percent of Hispanics never visit a doctor or medical provider during the year.
Most experts suggest a correlation between the number of Latinos with the access to health care.
“The Hispanic community is the community least likely to have health insurance,” says Dr. Jane Delgado, President and CEO of the National Health Alliance for Hispanics. In fact, the Census Bureau shows that about 30 percent of Hispanics are uninsured, a number that has not drastically increased or decreased in recent years. Dr. Delgado adds, “for the past 25 years, Hispanics have been the least likely to have health insurance.”
Hispanics often work low wage jobs or for small businesses that do not provide health insurance. In low wage jobs, they are half as likely to have insurance as non-Hispanics. Latinos are also likely to be self-employed, which makes acquiring health coverage quite difficult, according to the Commonwealth Fund. And since employment disqualifies you for public programs, many Hispanics are left without public or private health care, making it difficult to visit a doctor.
A lack of insurance isn’t the only thing keeping Hispanics from the doctor, according to Dr. Delgado who also notes that Hispanics put off seeing a medical provider. The Census report shows Latinos are much for optimistic about their health with 33 percent of Hispanics claiming their health is excellent most of the time.
“We don’t go to the doctor until we’re very, very sick,” says Dr. Delgado, adding, “By then, our health care clinician is limited in what they can do because the condition is too difficult to pinpoint.”
Despite few doctors’ visits and waiting for worsened conditions, most Hispanics outlive non-Hispanics, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But the quality may still be poor, suggests Dr. Delgado, who says, “I tell people we live long and suffer.”
Common illnesses in the Latino community –such as diabetes or arthritis– which don’t kill, but cause suffering could be tempered with prescriptions from a physician. But the Census Bureau’s report shows 72 percent of Hispanics never use prescription drugs, a side-effect of limited doctor visits.
“The hope is for these numbers to help us find ways to see our population’s health become excellent rather than poor,” says the author of the study, Dr. Brett O’Hara.
Dr. Delgado says the best advice for Latinos is to sign-up for insurance when it’s available and see a medical care provider regularly. “Seeing your health care provider is a way to prevent more serious, and costly, chronic illnesses,” she says.