LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Uninsured Rates Down, But Picture ‘Dismal’
Although the number of uninsured Los Angeles County residents has declined since 1997, the county still has "one of the worst records in the nation," the Los Angeles Times reports. Conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, a telephone survey of 8,000 households found that 31% of Los Angeles County adults under 65 were uninsured in 1999, compared to 34% in 1997. The percentage of uninsured children fell from 25% to 20% during that same time period. Officials credited the decline to the state's recent efforts to increase enrollment in private and public plans, including Medi-Cal and Healthy Families. Still, the survey found that Latinos and low-income residents have high uninsured rates. Nearly 50% of Latino adults and 29% of Latino children are uninsured, compared to 25% of Asian and Pacific Islander adults and 12% of children; 20% of African-American adults and 7% of children; and 20% of white adults and 8% of children. According to the Times, the low level of coverage among Latinos is "partly the result of their concentration in low-wage jobs that do not offer insurance benefits." Further complicating the problem, some parents do not enroll their eligible children in health plans for fear of immigration problems. Calling the uninsured problem in the county a "dismal picture," Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of public health for the county, said, "It's still very sad to see that we have over 570,000 children uninsured." He added, "These are dire circumstances, and they come at a time of unprecedented expansion in the economy. ... What is it likely to be when we have the next economic downturn?" (Marquis, Los Angeles Times, 10/17).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.