Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Health Insurance Coverage Estimates for Every County

The U.S. Census Bureau today released 2010 estimates of health insurance coverage for each of the nation’s roughly 3,140 counties. Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE) are the only source for single-year estimates of health insurance coverage status for every county in the nation.

These estimates are available by sex, age groups, race and Hispanic origin (for states only), and income-to-poverty ratios. As in past years, the estimates pertain to those younger than 65 as a whole. However, for the first time, there are estimates of coverage at the county level for those in the 50 to 64 age group.

By 2014, changes to the law will extend certain Medicaid benefits to uninsured people falling into specific income groups, and SAHIE estimates will permit users to track the impact of the law on small counties. The estimates also enable local planners to determine, for instance, the counties in which low-income children are most likely to lack health insurance. The mapping tools available on the SAHIE website can also show regional trends in coverage, displaying for instance, that small counties with a high range of uninsured children are mostly in Texas, Nevada and Montana, and small counties with a low range of uninsured are mostly in the Northeast and Midwest.

The new inclusion of the 50 to 64 age category allows tracking of the insurance status of this population, which is more likely to consume health care compared with younger age groups. Knowing the number of uninsured at this older age group allows planners and health care officials to better prepare for the health care needs of this population.

SAHIE is partially funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others in the health care field. The CDC uses these statistics in support of its National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, providing free cancer screenings to low-income, uninsured women.

“We use SAHIE data to more effectively gauge the level of need for breast and cervical cancer screening in various geographic jurisdictions across the country,” said Marcus Plescia, director of the CDC&8217;s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control in Atlanta. “The information provided by SAHIE data is important to us in program planning and management, targeting and resource allocation decisions and evaluation.”

The estimates are based on statistical models combining data from a variety of sources, including the American Community Survey (ACS), Census Bureau population estimates, administrative records (such as aggregated federal tax returns and Medicaid participation records) and 2000 Census statistics.

At present, SAHIE is the only source of health insurance estimates for all counties. There are no county estimates derived from the Current Population Survey. In September, the Census Bureau will release health insurance coverage estimates for counties with a population of 65,000 or more from the 2011 ACS. The following month, similar estimates will be released for counties with a population of 20,000 or more from the 2009-2011 ACS. Starting next year, the five-year estimates from ACS will include statistics on health insurance coverage for all areas, regardless of size.

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