Countless Asian Americans Without Health Insurance

By Cynthia De Castro/

LOS ANGELES – Tens of thousands of Pacific Islanders, Korean Americans and Southeast Asians lack health insurance according to a study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum on April 1.

These ethnic groups “are doing much worse than other subgroups in terms of health insurance and access to health care,” the study said.

Korean Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are less likely to be insured than other Asian American groups such as Japanese or Asian Indians and twice as likely to be uninsured as whites, according to an analysis of national health data from 2004-2006.

Cara James, the foundation’s senior policy analyst for race and ethnicity, stated that the disparity is particularly acute in California, home to a third of the nation’s Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“People who do not have health insurance delay much needed medical care. They are more likely to forgo care because of costs, and when they do finally show up for care the conditions they have are often far more severe,” James said. “They are more likely to show up with late stage cancer.”

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Nationwide, 24 percent of non-elderly native Hawaiians  and Pacific Islanders don’t have health insurance, compared with 21 percent of Vietnamese, 14 percent of Filipinos and 12 percent of Japanese and Asian Indians, according to the study.

Korean Americans, as a group, are not perceived as low income, but 31 percent of non-elderly Koreans have no insurance, James said, compared with 12 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 17 percent of all Asian Americans.

Many uninsured Asian Americans are eligible to get care at community clinics or through a California program that funds children and families above the federal poverty rate, Jang said.

“Either they don’t know how to access it or are afraid to access it because of their immigration status,” she added.


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