UCLA Study Finds Fewer Non-Elderly State Residents Uninsured Than Federal Estimates
The number of non-elderly California residents without health insurance is lower than previously estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau, according to research released June 20, the Los Angeles Times reports. Researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research interviewed more than 55,400 randomly selected households for the California Health Interview Survey, approximately 10 times more respondents than the federal Census Bureau's annual survey. Researchers asked respondents whether they were currently uninsured, while census researchers questioned participants about their insurance status in the previous year (Lee, Los Angeles Times, 6/20). The UCLA study is based on data gathered in 2001 (Khan, San Jose Mercury News, 6/20). The latest census is from 2000. The UCLA study, funded by $12 million in state and private monies, indicated that about 4.5 million state residents under age 65 are uninsured, compared with the Census estimate of 6.3 million residents. Eighty percent of the 4.5 million uninsured are "chronically uninsured and deserv[e] special attention," the UCLA study found. The study also found that nearly two million additional people, many of them between jobs, had been temporarily without insurance.
The Times reports that the study dispeled a "myth about the uninsured" -- that many people without health insurance are unemployed or young people "who don't think they need insurance." The study found that just 10% of respondents said they "did not believe in health insurance," while many more said they could not afford or could not obtain employer-based health coverage. The research also indicated that Latinos have the state's highest rate of uninsurance; 28% of Latinos are uninsured, compared with 13% of Asians and 10% of whites and blacks. The study pointed to "significant gains" in enrolling people in Medi-Cal and Healthy Families as a "major factor" in reducing the number of uninsured. Enrollment in those programs increased by 500,000 people over the 10-month period of the survey last year, the Times reports.
Advocates for universal health care are concerned that the UCLA study's findings may give lawmakers and others the notion that the issue of the uninsured is "less urgent," the Times reports. However, researchers noted that despite the lower figures, a "hefty" 15% of state residents remain uninsured. It is "not the time to be pulling back" on efforts to reduce the number of uninsured, Dr. Robert Ross, CEO of the California Endowment, said, adding that if the issue is left unaddressed, "We could see these numbers radically shift in the other direction" (Los Angeles Times, 6/20). More information about the UCLA study is available online.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.