LOS ANGELES: Study Pinpoints Regional Variations In Lack Of Insurance Coverage
Los Angeles residents without medical insurance are concentrated in the county's central and southern regions, a new study released Tuesday shows. The study, which was sponsored by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and conducted by the Field Research Corp., found that most of the uninsured are employed Latinos and Asian-Americans or the dependents of workers. In some areas, more than half of the residents lacked health insurance coverage. Michael Cousineau, the study's lead researcher said, "Previous studies have shown that Los Angeles County has the highest percentage of people without health insurance in California, yet we've had little information about who the uninsured are and where they live. This is the first time we've had the data to look at local communities smaller than the county."
Where Are They?
The study of more than 8,000 households in Los Angeles County found that 33% of county residents have no health insurance, compared to uninsured rates of 22% for the state and 20% for the nation. The study found that the region with the highest concentration of uninsured residents is the central health district with a 55% uninsured rate, followed by the southern district (53%) and southeastern district (51%). The county's northeast district ranked fourth with 49%. Cousineau said, "We've known for a long time that the county has large numbers of uninsured, and we've suspected they would be in these areas, but we never thought the concentrations would be so high."
Who Are They?
Cousineau's team found that half of the county's 2 million uninsured adults come from the ranks of the working poor -- meaning they are uninsured, full- or part-time workers with incomes that are at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Latinos and Asian-Americans reported the highest uninsured rates of any ethnic group -- 46% among Latinos and 35% among Asian- Americans. The comparable rates among African-Americans and Euro-Americans were 26% and 24%, respectively. Cousineau said, "Latinos and Asians may be less likely to have medical coverage because they are disproportionately represented in the trades, small businesses, domestic service and other types of work that are less likely to offer medical benefits." Surprisingly, residents in the impoverished communities of Compton, Pomona and East Los Angeles had relatively high levels of coverage. Cousineau said, "These are poor but stable communities, where people are more likely to qualify for Medi-Cal and know how to apply for it."
Low Medi-Cal Utilization
The study also found that only 43% of Los Angeles County residents at or near the cutoff point for Medi-Cal reported being covered by the state-funded health care plan. Cousineau said, "Some people may think they don't need Medi-Cal coverage. Others might not know how to obtain these benefits, while many immigrants could be wary of applying." The study found that 58% of the uninsured said medical care is somewhat or very difficult to obtain, compared with 41% of those covered by Medi-Cal and 24% of those with job-based coverage. Half of the uninsured respondents had no regular doctor and nearly a third with diabetes said they're not under the care of a physician. According to Cousineau, the study results will be used to "target scarce resources for the indigent more effectively." It will also be used to recruit people for the state's new Healthy Families program (University of Southern California release, 4/14).