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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

UNC Study Considers How to Increase Health Care Enrollment for NC’s Immigrants

Sixty-one percent of immigrants in North Carolina have no health insurance coverage, yet the average monthly premium for insurance available through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace is within the price range many immigrants thought would be affordable for themselves or their families, according to a new report from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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[Photo: (Left to right) Dr. Krista Perreira, Ms. Leslie DeRosset and Ms. Gabriela Arandia, co-authors of the study, review information on the healthcare.gov website]

The Carolina Population Center study, “Implementing Health Care Reform in North Carolina: Reaching and Enrolling Immigrants and Refugees”, also shows that immigrants who participated in focus groups believe that health insurance is a necessity they would not give up if they could afford it.

“Most people felt they could afford a premium between $50 and $70, so it was a wonderful coincidence when we looked online at health insurance premium rates and found that the average, with subsidies, was $69,” said co-author Dr. Krista Perreira, professor of public policy and associate dean for undergraduate research in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and a Carolina Population Center fellow. “That’s right in that sweet spot of affordability.”

Dr. Perreira also is adjunct professor of maternal and child health and health behavior in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

In 2013-2014, authors completed more than 100 interviews with state and county community leaders and conducted 11 focus groups with nearly 100 immigrants in the Charlotte metropolitan area, the Piedmont Triad, the Research Triangle and the eastern region of the state. Ninety-four percent of focus group participants said they knew little if anything about the Affordable Care Act. The next NC enrollment period is November 15 to Feburary 15, 2015.

Key recommendations include:

“Many immigrants are eligible to participate in the health insurance marketplace, yet they remain one of the most hard-to-reach population groups,” said Dr. Jonathan Oberlander, professor and vice chair of social medicine in the UNC School of Medicine and professor of health policy and management in the Gillings School. “To further reduce the number of uninsured in North Carolina, outreach to immigrants is critical.”

Local and community leaders are eager to engage in outreach to immigrants about health care coverage, but there’s no one-size-fits-all medium to get the word out to them. Perreira said organizations should concentrate enrollment efforts on the five counties where nearly 50 percent of non-insured citizens live — Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, and Wake.

UNC researchers say NC is a compelling case study to increase enrollment because:

Other co-authors of the study include Gillings School doctoral students Ms. Gabriela Arandia (health behavior) and Ms. Leslie DeRosset (maternal and child health).

The report, which can be found online, was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.