Illinois' Latinos Facing Health Crisis Due To Lack Of Access, Language/ Cultural Barriers

ACP-ASIM Pressroom

Presidential Candidates Urged to Address Health Crisis

Sept. 7, 2000

Chicago—Illinois' Latino population is facing a health care crisis that threatens to grow much worse in the near future, according to the consensus reached today at a symposium sponsored by the American College of Physicians - American Society of Internal Medicine, the National Hispanic Medical Association, and the Commonwealth Fund. The symposium brought together health care providers, politicians, and business leaders to discuss the current problems facing uninsured Latinos and suggest solutions.

Latinos make up 26 percent of Chicago's under 65 population, but they account for 43 percent of the city's uninsured. Between 1997 and 1998, the number of uninsured people in greater-Chicago increased by 30 percent.

"A lack of insurance puts Latinos at great risk because they do not receive routine preventive care that often results in greater complications or worse symptoms from easily treated diseases such as diabetes, asthma, or hypertension," said Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, FACP, president of the ACP-ASIM. "For example, incidences of diabetes-related end-stage renal disease in the Latino population is up to six times greater than in the non-Latino white population."

The symposium highlighted the fact that 15 percent of Illinois' population lacks insurance. Yet 8 out of 10 of these people come from working families.

The symposium identified a number of current barriers to health care for Latinos including:

  • Latinos tend to work for small, low-wage businesses that do not offer insurance.
  • Individual insurance is prohibitively expensive.
  • Not enough information is available about currently existing programs, such as the state's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
  • Cultural and linguistic barriers exist both in interactions with physicians and the paperwork required for public assistance.
  • Latinos are concerned about being labeled a public charge if they use public assistance.

Some possible solutions identified by the symposium included:

  • Expand outreach for public programs including better dissemination of information on existing programs encouraging enrollment and decreasing barriers.
  • Use government incentives to encourage businesses (especially small businesses) to offer coverage.
  • Examine creative solutions from insurance companies such as offering more affordable packages that focus on preventive care.
  • Train more Spanish-speaking physicians and encourage the use of translators at physician offices.

"We urge America's political leaders to commit themselves to undertaking a series of sequential steps that will lead to health insurance for all Americans," said Dr. Fryhofer. "In these prosperous times, we must make sure no American suffers or dies needlessly due to a lack of access to health care."

ACP-ASIM is the nation's largest medical specialty organization and the second largest physician group. Membership comprises more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians and medical students.


  • Jack E. Pope, ACP-ASIM Washington Office, 202-261-4556
  • David Edelson, ACP-ASIM Washington Office, 202 261-4575