Young Latinos living in rural areas say they face discrimination when they obtain health care services, a factor that could contribute to disparities in their rates for obtaining medical care and in their health outcomes.

Perceived discrimination is considered a barrier to obtaining health care services for underrepresented populations, including Latinos, according to lead researcher

The findings, published recently in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, were based on interviews with 349 young adult Latinos, ages 18 to 25, living in rural Oregon. Nearly 40 percent of those interviewed said they had experienced health care discrimination, such as being prevented from accessing services; being hassled; or being made to feel inferior in some way.

Nearly 45 percent of foreign-born Latinos, reported discrimination, compared to about 32 percent of Latinos born in the U.S. They did not ask foreign-born respondents if they were in the country legally or illegally but the issue is important in an Obamacare future because Latinos are less likely to obtain regular health care services and have higher rates of chronic disease such as diabetes than the general population, leading to higher costs for taxpayers. 

The researchers' goal was to better understand the role perceived discrimination plays in Latinos' access to and use of health care services. Much of the past research on discrimination in health care has focused on African-Americans and people living in urban settings. This study emphasizes the experience of Latinos living in rural areas, a trend emerging as Latino populations move to rural areas across the nation, said Daniel López-Cevallos, associate director of research for the Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement at Oregon State University. 

Addressing health care barriers facing Latinos and other underrepresented groups is important because when health care issues go undiagnosed or untreated, health care costs tend to rise. Prevention, early diagnosis and disease management are critical components as the federal Affordable Care Act tried to contain costs.

Immigration reform policies, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, could open access for Latinos who are not here legally and therefore are not yet eligible for care under the Affordable Care Act.  

Source: Oregon State University