Census Data: Calif. Uninsured Rate Decreases, Poverty Rate Climbs
The rate of uninsured California residents has declined since 2006, especially among children, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Tuesday, the Palm Springs Desert-Sun reports (Pelham, Palm Springs Desert-Sun, 9/17).
However, the rate of state residents living in poverty has increased since that time, the report found (California Budget Project release, 9/17).
The data were released less than two weeks before the state's health insurance exchange is set to begin enrollment and a few months before a planned Medi-Cal expansion.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (Palm Springs Desert-Sun, 9/17).
Background on Exchange
The ACA's health insurance exchanges -- which primarily will serve individuals and small businesses -- are designed to function similarly to websites like Amazon and Expedia, allowing users to choose among various health plans through an easily navigable online store (California Healthline, 9/16).
Background on Medi-Cal Expansion
Under the ACA, a state expansion of Medi-Cal will allow individuals with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level, or $15,415 annually, to gain coverage.
The federal government will fund the expansion for the first few years, according to the ACA (California Healthline, 9/3).
Details of Census Data
According to the data, the overall percentage of uninsured U.S. residents remained statistically unchanged between 2011 and 2012, decreasing slightly from 15.7% in 2011 to 15.4% in 2012 (AP/Washington Post, 9/17).
More than 48 million U.S. residents were uninsured during all of 2012, down from 48.6 million the previous year (Kaiser Health News, 9/17).
Meanwhile, the poverty rate in the U.S. remained steady at about 15% (Humer/Heavey, Reuters, 9/17).
Data on Uninsured in Calif.
In California, the rate of uninsured residents under age 64 decreased from 21.9% in 2011 to 20% in 2012. According to the Census report, the change likely was the result of:
- An emerging job market recovery; and
- An ACA provision that allows individuals to remain on their parents' health insurance plans until age 26.
In addition, the number of state residents under age 18 who were uninsured declined by 2.4 percentage points between 2006 and 2012, largely because of an increase in eligibility under Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, the Census report found. Healthy Families is California's Children's Health Insurance Program.
Calif. Poverty Data
The report also found that more than six million California residents -- or one in six state residents -- had household incomes below the federal poverty level last year, including 2.1 million children.
The state's poverty rate was 15.9% in 2012, compared with 12.2% in 2006.
The report found that about 22.5% of California children were living in poverty last year, compared with 18.1% in 2006. In 2012, children accounted for nearly 35% of all state residents living in poverty, according to the Census report.
Chris Hoene -- executive director of the California Budget Project -- said the findings "make it clear that many individuals and families across California continue to face serious economic hardship in the aftermath of the Great Recession."
Hoene said the "high level of child poverty in California is deeply troubling" because "[c]hildren who grow up in poverty are more likely to face significant challenges later in life, from lower levels of attainment in school to lower earnings in their careers."
However, he said that the findings highlight the importance of public health coverage. He added that "it's encouraging that California is moving full speed ahead to put the final pieces of federal health care reform into place" (California Budget Project release, 9/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.