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Number of uninsured in California counties grew during recession

A new fact sheet from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research provides detailed county-by-county estimates of the number of California residents who have lost health insurance during the economic downturn.
Following on a statewide estimate published earlier this year, the new analysis finds that the number of Californians without health insurance grew in all counties and that 37 counties — from Imperial to Kern to Shasta — had uninsured rates above the statewide average of 24.3%.

Loss of health insurance was concentrated in counties in Southern California (Imperial, Riverside and San Bernardino), the San Joaquin Valley (all counties) and the Northern/Sierra areas (every county but Sutter and Humbolt), all of which had 2009 uninsured rates that were above the statewide average of 24 percent.

The losses were due to sharp increases in local unemployment and corresponding drops in both household income and job-based coverage, the report's authors said.

The authors also noted that major elements of the national health care reform legislation aimed at helping middle- and lower-income families will not go into effect until 2014. Included among these provisions are federal subsidies for purchasing health insurance through a state-based health insurance exchange and a federally funded expansion of Medi-Cal.

"Health care reform is several years away, but families are dealing with health problems right now," said Shana Alex Lavarreda, lead researcher on the fact sheet. "Every effort should be made to help families in need even sooner than 2014."

The county estimates were based on a simulation model that predicted changes in county-level uninsurance using data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey adjusted with 2009 county unemployment rates, and taking into account simultaneous decreases in household income. The model also included county-level increases in public health insurance from 2007 to 2009, based on administrative data from Medi-Cal and Healthy Families enrollment counts.

Development of the fact sheet was supported by the California Endowment and the California Wellness Foundation.

View the fact sheet, "California's Uninsured by County."

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians.

The California Wellness Foundation's mission is to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.

The California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) is the nation's largest state health survey and one of the largest health surveys in the United States.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research is one of the nation's leading health policy research centers and the premier source of health-related information on Californians.

For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom or follow us on Twitter.

Gwen Driscoll | EurekAlert!
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