Asian American Health Insurance Disparities Vary by Subgroup

Despite efforts by advocacy groups like the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association (AAPINA) and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) to increase public awareness about Asian American and Pacific Islander (API) health issues, many Americans still view the API population as a healthy “model minority” that is relatively unaffected by the crisis of racial and ethnic health disparities. However, a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation and APIAHF reveals that some API subgroups face substantial disparities in health care access and insurance coverage, including some of the highest uninsured rates in the nation.

Based on analysis of data from the 2004, 2005 and 2006 National Health Interview Survey and Current Population Survey, the Kaiser Foundation and APIAHF found that:

• Korean Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are about twice as likely to be uninsured than white Americans.

• The proportion of non-elderly Asian Americans who lack health insurance varies widely between ethnic subgroups, ranging from 31% of Koreans, 24% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and 21% of Vietnamese to only 12% of Japanese Americans and Asian Indians (the same percentage as non-Hispanic whites).

• Non-elderly Koreans are the subgroup least likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance (only 49%) while Asian Indians are the most likely to have it (77%).

Why are there such dramatic variations in health coverage between different subgroups? Some of it may be due to factors such as how recently certain Asian immigrants groups arrived in the U.S., what part of the country they live in, income levels and the size of the companies they work for, the report suggests.