LOS ANGELES: Second Worst In Nation For Uninsurance Rate
Many California metropolitan areas have rates of uninsurance far above the national average, with Los Angeles having the second highest rate among 85 areas surveyed by University of California- Los Angeles researchers. The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research reports that nearly one in three (31%) nonelderly Los Angeles residents have no health insurance. California did not fare well overall in the survey, with most metropolitan areas coming in above or around the national average of 18%. Here are rates of uninsurance for the California cities studied:
- Bakersfield -- 21%
- Fresno -- 16%
- Los Angeles -- 31%
- Oakland -- 13%
- Orange County -- 21%
- Riverside-San Bernadino -- 19%
- Sacramento -- 13%
- San Diego -- 24%
- San Francisco -- 17%
- San Jose -- 16%
- Ventura -- 23%
The study found that nationally, 67% of nonelderly people who had health insurance were covered by job-based insurance, 4% purchased their own private plan, 9% were covered by Medicaid and 2% relied on other public insurance such as Medicare. "The major factor that determines the number of uninsured people in a region is the rate of job-based health insurance coverage. That number tends to depend on a region's economy. Areas with relatively large numbers of smaller employees and low-paying jobs, tend to have more people who do not have job-based health insurance," said lead author Rebecka Levan. While the national rate of job- based coverage is 67%, Los Angeles (47%), San Diego (52%) and Bakersfield (59%) all fell well below that number, a fact which correlates with their low overall insurance rate. Another predictor of a high uninsurance rate is a high rate of Medicaid coverage in a given area. California metro areas registering higher than the national mean of 9% are Fresno (17%), Los Angeles (16%), Bakersfield (16%), Sacramento (15%), San Diego (14%) and Riverside (14%). Of those cities, in fact among all U.S. cities surveyed, Sacramento was the only metropolitan area with a higher-than-average Medicaid rate and a lower-than-average uninsurance rate. Other determining factors of high rates of uninsured residents were a high Latino population, low education rates and a high rate of poor residents (UCLA release, 12/98).
Los Angeles, second only to El Paso, TX, in the number of insured residents, exhibited all determining characteristics of low- insured areas. Los Angeles has "more small employers and low- wage workers ... with many Latinos working in service and retail jobs offering little or no coverage." The research team suggests that "government needs to step in as job-based coverage falls off." They favor expansion of state insurance programs to higher-income families, as in the Healthy Families program. They also note the importance of informing immigrant families that they will not negatively affect their naturalization or immigration status by taking public assistance and say that "the stigma of Medi-Cal must be diminished" (Marquis, Los Angeles Times, 12/18).