KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

The Uninsured Vary Dramatically By Congressional District And State

U.S. Census Bureau data shows that 17 percent of Americans younger than age 65 are uninsured, but the number varies significantly by region.

"[O]f the 100 congressional districts with the highest uninsured rates, 53 are represented either by Republican lawmakers - who are fighting the Obama administration's attempt to overhaul the health care system - or by Blue Dog Democrats - conservative Democrats who have slowed down and diluted the overhaul proposals," NPR reports. Blue Dog Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., for example, represents a rural district where "more than 1 out of 5 residents under age 65 lacks health insurance - that's 30 percent higher than the national average."

"It's a basic truth of political analysis that low-income residents - that is, those most likely to be uninsured - are less likely than middle-class people to attend town meetings and less likely to vote. To state the obvious, the poor are also less likely to make campaign contributions. Meanwhile, health care corporations and professional organizations have actively engaged the Blue Dogs. So far this year, the Blue Dogs' political action committee has received $301,500 from health care and health insurance PACs. Ross, the coalition's lead negotiator, has received $100,600 for his campaign committee and a PAC that he operates" (Overby, 9/22).

NPR also published an interactive map showing uninsured rates for each state and Congressional district (Benincasa and Hsu, 9/22).

Many newspapers reported on the uninsured rates in their area:

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: "Nearly 1 in 4 Georgians of working age is without health insurance, and the numbers are even more dramatic in some of metro Atlanta's largest counties, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau" (Poole and Stafford, 9/22).

Palm Beach Post: "As leaders in Washington wrangle with the contentious issue of health care reform, Florida finds itself ranked fourth-worst in the U.S. with 20.8 percent of its citizens uninsured" (Lantigua, 9/21).

The Plain Dealer: "Northeast Ohio's big cities -- from Cleveland to Lorain -- report a higher rate of people lacking health insurance than the state and national averages, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Monday" (Tribble, 9/22).

San Jose Mercury News: "Releasing its most extensive picture ever of health insurance in America, the U.S. Census Bureau showed the wide gulf in coverage between California's affluent counties and its poorest, a checkerboard of health care haves and have-nots." The paper also included a map of California's uninsured rate, county by county  (Swift, 9/22).

The Press of Atlantic City reports on how the uninsured in New Jersey get care. Gregory Robinson, who has says he has been without health insurance for six months, says "I just don't go to the emergency room. … If I get sick, I'm just going to try and fight it out. Things would be a lot better (with health insurance), but I just try to not get sick" (Embden, 9/21).

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