Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rural Americans are hit hardest by lack or no Health Insurance. Who has it & who don't & where the uninsured rates are growing.

My buddies over at Blog for Rural America has this interesting bit of information I would like to share with you:
With our current focus on health care reform and with the debate in Congress heating up, two recently released reports on health insurance and the uninsured caught our attention.

The first is from the U.S. Census Bureau and provides a glimpse of insurance coverage by county. Though the data is a bit old (2006) and does not include the effect of the recession on health insurance coverage, it is the most recent data available at a less than state level.

According to an article in Daily Yonder, rural counties have slightly lower uninsured rates than do urban counties (17.4 percent and 18 percent respectively), but the aggregate national figures are misleading. The large uninsured rates in four states – Texas, Florida, Arizona and California – tipped the national data.

In eight out of ten states (37 out of 48 states with rural populations; New Jersey and Rhode Island have no counties classified as rural), rural residents were LESS likely to have health insurance than their urban neighbors in 2006.

In all but nine states, the percentage of uninsured was HIGHER in rural areas than the state average.

(The eleven states where rural rates of uninsured were lower than urban rates in 2006 were Arizona, Illinois, California, Nevada, Connecticut, Texas, South Carolina, Iowa, West Virginia, Indiana and Louisiana.)

This data clearly shows that in most of the nation rural people are less likely to have health insurance.

The second report that caught our attention is from Gallup, the national public opinion and polling organization. In a survey conducted from January to June 2009, it was found that Texas had the highest rate of uninsured adults in the nation (with nearly 27 percent of adults without health insurance), while Massachusetts had the lowest rate (with 5.5 percent of adults uninsured). Massachusetts, of course, is the only state in the nation where all residents are required to have health insurance or face a tax penalty. While not quite universal, 5.5 percent is significantly lower than the national uninsurance rate of 17.8 percent found in the Census Bureau report.

What really caught our eye in the Gallup report was the comparison between 2008 state rates of uninsured and the first half of 2009 rates. Likely as a result of the recession, the percentage of uninsured adults in every state either increased or remained unchanged from 2008 to 2009 (so far), but the state that witnessed the greatest increase? Our home state of Nebraska, where 40 percent more people are uninsured in 2009 than in 2008 (12.6 percent in 2008 compared to 17.7 percent in January-June 2009).

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