Language barriers keep many Asian Americans from getting good health care

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By Cara Murez

Health Day Reporter

WEDNESDAY, December 28, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Many adults of Asian American and native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander origin may have trouble accessing health care and insurance due to language barriers, a new analysis shows.

In a new report from the Urban Institute, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, researchers found that more than 30% of people in this group had limited English skills in 2019. The rate was similar to Hispanic adults, but differential language communication may pose more of a challenge for this group.

While most Hispanic adults in the United States speak Spanish, Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) adults speak a variety of languages ​​and dialects under the same circumstances.

“These results demonstrate the need for greater language accessibility for this group in healthcare and in enrolling and renewing health insurance coverage — especially as some pandemic-related health insurance coverage measures are phasing out,” said Jennifer Haley, a senior research fellow at the Municipal Institute.

Haley noted that the White House Advisory Committee on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is considering accessibility recommendations for those in that community with limited English skills.

“Despite stereotypes that some AANHPI people are a ‘model minority’ and face no disadvantages, many in this community face several barriers that could limit their access to health insurance,” Haley said in a Robert Wood Johnson news release.

Other findings include that 15% of Asian American adults live in a household where all members aged 14 and older have limited English skills.

Rates of limited English proficiency vary among different AANHPI subgroups. For example, these rates are around 12% for Hawaiian/Pacific Islander adults and much higher at 40% for Chinese, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Nepalese, and Burmese adults.

The analysis found that those with limited English proficiency were more likely to be non-US citizens and have lower income, less education, and higher insurance premiums than those with English proficiency.

“While health systems identify and work to address systemic causes of racial inequality, it is clear that resources must be culturally appropriate and linguistically appealing to improve access to coverage and care for those with limited English skills,” Gina said Hijjawi, Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“State and federal officials need to develop and target culturally and linguistically appealing resources to ensure that more people, including those with [limited English proficiency] have the opportunity to improve their health and the health of their communities,” Hijjawi said in the press release.

More information

KFF has more on health and healthcare inequalities.

SOURCE: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, press release, December 13, 2022


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Language barriers keep many Asian Americans from getting good health care
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