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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 13.1 percent of Washington’s population went without health coverage last year. Among the state's 19 largest counties – those with populations over 65,000 – there was significant variation, with more than one of every four Washingtonians in Franklin County and Yakima County lacking health insurance.

Counties with larger populations generally experienced lower uninsured rates compared to the state average. Yet even in King County, one of every 10 residents (10.6 percent of the population) was uninsured in 2008. In addition to King County, Island County (9.5 percent), Thurston County (10.9 percent), and Spokane County (11.8 percent) all experienced uninsured rates significantly lower than the statewide average. In Benton, Clark, Kitsap, Lewis, Pierce, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties the uninsured rate was about the same as the state average.

Of Washington’s most populous counties, Franklin County and Yakima County had the highest uninsured rates in 2008, which stood at 27.7 percent and 27.5 percent, respectively. Residents in the counties of Grays Harbor (16.0 percent), Clallam (16.6 percent), Cowlitz (16.7 percent), Skagit (16.7 percent), Chelan (19.7 percent), and Grant (20.5) were also significantly more likely to lack coverage compared to those in rest of the state.

While today’s data sheds much-needed light on the disparities in health coverage throughout Washington, next year’s data are likely to be far worse. In 2008, the unemployment rate averaged 5.3 percent in Washington. However, the economy deteriorated dramatically in 2009. As of August, the unemployment rate in Washington stood at 9.2 percent, and nearly 66,000 jobs have been lost in the state since January. A BPC analysis of the census health coverage data in 2007-08 shows the employer-based coverage weakened significantly during that period – a trend that will certainly continue throughout 2009.

For information on the uninsured rate among children in Washington State counties, click here to view an analysis from Washington Kids Count and the Children's Alliance.

Editor’s note: The Census Bureau originally planned to release single-year estimates of all indicators included in the 2008 American Community Survey (ACS) today. Due to a coding error, however, ACS poverty estimates will not be released until September 29, 2009. That morning, the Budget & Policy Center along with Washington Kids Count will release an analysis of the latest poverty data from the ACS.


Anonymous said...

Let's peel back the layers of the onion a little more and look at percentages of working population that has coverage, retired population that has coverage, percentage of undocumented workers that are part of the equation, etc.

Andy Nicholas said...

Thanks for your comment. I think you have a great idea. Going forward, we will certainly consider tackling projects that involve more detailed breakouts of the ACS health coverage data.