Census Data Shows Big Coverage Gaps for New York’s American Indian Population

Posted October, 22 2020 by Amanda Dunker

2019 Census data shows that 13.9 percent of people who identified as American Indian or Alaska Natives are uninsured in New York, compared to just 5.2 percent for the general population. Only eight counties in New York produced enough data to create good estimates, but even if we can’t see it it’s likely that American Indians living in the rest of the state are also experiencing these disparities.

People who are members of federally recognized tribes and who live on or near federal reservations can access health care through the Indian Health Service, but this program is often underfunded and many people who identify as American Indians chose not to live on reservations. There are federal reservations in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Franklin, Genesee, Madison, Niagara, Onondaga, Seneca, and Suffolk Counties. Data was unavailable for eight of those counties.

The biggest coverage gap is in Westchester County, where 31.1 percent of American Indians reported being uninsured while just 4.5 percent of the general population did. Westchester County does not have a federal reservation.

Coverage gaps lead to unequal access to health care, and during the COVID-19 pandemic may have contributed to higher death rates for other racial and ethnic minorities (see the CSS report, How Structural Inequalities in New York’s Health Care System Exacerbate Health Disparities During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Call for Equitable Reform). New York’s American Indian population is relatively small, which means it is hard to get enough data to see how exactly that community is faring during the pandemic. But the data we can see suggests that American Indians are another community that is facing much worse outcomes than other groups.

If you are uninsured, you can use go to https://info.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/ to find out if you are eligible for any help and to learn more about the costs of available plans. There are also programs that can help you understand your options – you can call 888-614-5400 to reach the Navigator Network and get help anywhere in the state.