From Our 2008 Archives

Texas Has Highest Rate of Uninsured

40% of Hispanics in Texas Have No Health Insurance

By Salynn Boyles
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 9, 2008 -- About one in six people living in the U.S. under the age of 65 had no health insurance in 2005, but closer to 1 in 3 Hispanics were uninsured, newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau confirms.

Roughly one in four people living in Florida, Texas, and New Mexico lacked health insurance, while only one in 10 of those living in Minnesota and Hawaii were without coverage.

The new report includes some of the most detailed estimates ever of health insurance coverage rates by state and county.

Insurance coverage was broken down by race, and the data showed that Hispanics were far less likely to have health insurance than African-Americans and whites.

In Texas, 40.5% of Hispanics under age 65 had no health insurance, compared with 24.3% of blacks and 15.8% of whites.

Almost 40% of Hispanics living in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Carolina also had no health insurance.

"This is not an issue of people not working, it is an issue of working families not being about to afford coverage," Rea Panares of the health care advocacy group Families USA tells WebMD. "We are seeing that about 80% of people who are uninsured have a full time worker in the family."

Health Insurance by State

Texas had the highest percentage of uninsured residents under the age of 65, with 26.3% of the population lacking health coverage, followed by New Mexico, with 24.2% and Florida with 24.0%.

Minnesota had the lowest percentage of people without health insurance, with an uninsured rate of 9.5%, followed by Hawaii, with 9.7%, Wisconsin, with 10.3% and Iowa, with 10.4%

African-Americans living in Florida were more likely than those living in other states to have no health insurance, with 26.7% uninsured. Roughly one in four African-Americans living in Louisiana and Mississippi also lacked health insurance.

The state with the most uninsured white residents was Oklahoma, where 18.2% of whites had no insurance.

Hawaii had the lowest percentage of uninsured whites and African-Americans -- 7.4% and 11.4%, respectively.

Coverage Rose in 2007

It is not clear from the new figures if the number of Americans without health insurance rose or fell compared to previous years, Lucy Dalzell of the Census bureau tells WebMD.

But a separate Census bureau report involving 2007 census figures showed slight increases in health insurance coverage rates among whites, children, and Hispanics.

According to the report, which was published in late August, the number of uninsured children declined from 8.7 million in 2006 to 8.1 million in 2007.

The number and percentage of uninsured Hispanics decreased from 15.3 million and 34.1%, respectively, in 2006 to 14.8 million and 32.1% in 2007.

The small rise is explained by an increase in people covered by public programs like the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Alwyn Cassil of the Center for Studying Health Care System Change tells WebMD.

Given the economic downturn, Cassil says the number of Americans without health insurance will certainly go up unless public coverage expands.

"A lot of attention has been focused on narrowing racial and ethnic disparities in health, but when you look at the health insurance coverage rates it is clear that not much has changed," she tells WebMD.

SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, 2005 Health Insurance Coverage Status for States, Oct. 9, 2008. Rea Panares, spokeswoman, Families USA. Lucy Dalzell, U.S. Census Bureau. U.S. Census Bureau News: "Household Income Rises, Poverty Rate Unchanged, Number of Uninsured Down," Aug. 26, 2008. Alwyn Cassil, director of public affairs, Center for Studying Health Care System Change.

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