An analysis conducted by the Urban Institute revealed that language barriers are preventing many Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) adults from accessing health care and insurance.
The report, which was published in December with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, contained an analysis of the most recent data sourced from the American Community Survey.
Based on the findings, 30.8% of Asian American and 12.1% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander adults had limited English proficiency in 2019. While the rate was not too far from that of Hispanic adults (32.9%), the variety of languages and dialects within the AANHPI communities pose more significant challenges.
“These findings show the need for greater language accessibility for this group in health care settings and when enrolling in and renewing health insurance coverage—particularly as some pandemic-related health coverage protections expire,” said Jennifer Haley, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute.
She added that the White House Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is evaluating recommendations for those with limited English proficiency.
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“Despite stereotypes of some AANHPI people being a ‘model minority’ and not facing disadvantages, many in this community face several barriers that could reduce their access to health insurance,” Haley noted.
The study also found that 15% of Asian American adults live in a home where all members of the household ages 14 and older said they possess limited English proficiency.
The researchers noted that the different subgroups within the AANHPI umbrella have varying degrees of limited English proficiency ratings, with Chinese, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Nepalese and Burmese adults accounting for 40%.
The study posited that individuals who know limited English are more likely to have lower incomes, less education and higher insurance rates than those who are proficient. They are also most likely non-US citizens.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Senior Program Officer Gina Hijjawi pointed out that resources addressing racial inequity “must be culturally appropriate and linguistically responsive to improve access to coverage and care for individuals with limited English proficiency.”
“State and federal officials must develop and target culturally and linguistically responsive 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 added.