Monday, March 24, 2014

Got Health Insurance?

Insurance deadlines under Affordable Care Act are loom. 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 central 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 central 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 did the U.S. (17 percent). On the other hand, all counties in central Utah showed higher-than-average shares of population without health insurance coverage. Uninsured rates in 2012 ranged from 18 percent (Sevier County) to 23 percent (Wayne County). A lack of large employers and many part-time jobs may mean fewer individuals have access to employer-provided plans.

Men are more likely to be uninsured than are women in central Utah. This trend is obvious across all of Utah’s counties. Whether this phenomenon 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.

Interestingly, the percentage of individuals without health insurance actually declined during the recession in Sanpete, Sevier and Wayne counties. Then the share of uninsured popped up slightly as the recovery ensued. The recessionary dip in the uninsured rate probably reflects increased eligibility for Medicaid as jobs and incomes declined. On the other hand, in Millard and Piute counties, uninsured rates jumped significantly during the business downturn, peaking in 2010.

The loss of Wayne County’s largest employer seems to have significantly affected the share of the population with healthcare insurance. In 2008, only 18 percent of pre-retirement age individuals lacked healthcare insurance compared with 23 percent in 2012. Millard County also experienced a notable increase in the share of uninsured. The remaining counties experienced little change percentage of individuals without healthcare coverage.

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