Monday, March 24, 2014

Got Health Insurance?

Insurance deadlines under Affordable Care Act are looming. Plus, the U.S. Census Bureau just released its Small Area Health Insurance Estimates for 2012. What better time to examine just who is lacking health insurance coverage in southwest Utah?

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The Census Bureau uses American Community Survey data to make estimates of health insurance coverage for every county in the United States. Both those with government-provided insurance (such as Medicaid) and private health insurance are categorized as “insured” in the data tabulations. Estimates are provided only for those 65 years and older as this age group is covered by Medicare. Age, gender, income and race/ethnicity (statewide only) breakouts are available. Remember that the margins of error for small counties may be quite high.

How does southwest Utah fair when it comes to health insurance coverage? In 2012, Utah (16 percent) showed a slightly smaller share of uninsured individuals under age 65 than does the U.S. (17 percent). On the other hand, all counties in southwest Utah showed higher-than-average shares of population without health insurance coverage. Uninsured rates in 2012 ranged from 18 percent to 20 percent for counties in southwest Utah. Nevertheless, the largest and only metropolitan county in the area – Washington County – also displayed the highest percentage of under-65 population without health insurance. One in five Washington County residents under the age of 65 did not have health insurance in 2012.

Men are more likely to be uninsured than are women in southwest Utah. This trend is also apparent across all of Utah’s counties. Whether this fact reflects gender differences in employment choices or risk tolerance would require further study.

 Although the Census Bureau’s database generally provides insurance status for very large age groups, deconstructing the estimates provides a better picture of age-group coverage. Individuals between the ages of 18-39 are least likely to have health insurance. In contrast, children under 18 are the most likely to be covered by health insurance. Government-provided health insurance for children is undoubtedly responsible for at least part of the increased coverage. At the other end of the age scale, 50-64 year-olds exhibited the second-lowest share of uninsured individuals.

The entire database of small area health insurance estimates can be found here.