Health insurance a Highlands problem
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodaySEBRING - If the U.S. Census Bureau's estimate is correct and 28.5 percent of Highlands County's population under 65 is uninsured, it won't surprise Rachel Nawrocki or Nick Pavlinsky.
Published: September 1, 2012
Published: September 1, 2012
"We treat people who have no insurance of any kind," said Nawrocki, executive director of Samaritan's Touch in Sebring. "It's an overwhelming number. They're the working poor."
Many Samaritan's Touch patients flip hamburgers, or sell lottery tickets at convenience stores, or are underemployed in the flagging construction industry.
"They're hard-working people. These are people, 18 to 65, prior to getting Medicare," Nawrocki said. To qualify, patients live 200 percent away from the poverty line: the annual income for a family of four can't exceed $44,700, or $21,780 for a single person.
"They are people who never thought they would be on this end of the spectrum," Nawrocki said. People say to us, 'I was always the one who was able to give help.' Many are college students, or people with college degrees who can't find work or can't make ends meet."
The U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday released 2010 estimates of health insurance coverage for every state and each of the nation's 3,140 counties.
It showed that 28.5 percent of Highlands County's population under age 65 didn't have health insurance in 2010. That's up from 27 percent in 2005. More than 3.8 million Florida residents – 25.3 percent – are uninsured. In the 18-64 category, the percentage is 29.8, the second-worst among states in working-age population. Only Texas is worse.
"We have a lot from the rural communities," said Pavlinsky, public information officer for Highlands County Health Department. Many are agriculture workers, so they tend to have lower incomes. Many farms, ranches or agriculture companies don't offer health care insurance.
"Without employer assistance, it's very expensive," Pavlinsky said. Therefore, many don't see doctors and dentists regularly, and their health declines. "It's cultural, it's financial, it's geographical."
Of people whose incomes were within 138 percent of the poverty line, 51.7 percent were uninsured.
Census estimates are available by county for sex, age, racial groups and income-to-poverty ratios, and by Hispanic origin for states.
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.
"That's a hot topic right now, in the White House and local governments," Pavlinsky said. "Big changes are coming."
Estimates enable local planners to determine, for instance, the counties in which low-income children are most likely to lack health insurance. In Highlands, 2,887 children under 19 are uninsured. Knowing the number in these age groups allows planners and health care officials to prepare for the health care needs of the population.
Inclusion of the 50 to 64 age category shows the insurance status the group that's mostly likely to consume health care. In Highlands, that's 4,134 people, or 21.2 percent.
"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's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control in Atlanta.
Estimates are based on statistical models combining data from a variety of sources, including the American Community Survey, Census Bureau population estimates, administrative records like federal tax returns and Medicaid participation records, and 2000 Census statistics. More info: http://www.census.gov/did/www/sahie/data/interactive/#
email@example.com (863) 386-5828