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1 in 9 Iowans uninsured, Census data shows
Census data released Thursday shows 1 in 9 Iowans were without health care insurance in 2008-09. Analysts with the nonpartisan Iowa Fiscal Partnership (IFP) credit the loss in coverage to the erosion of employer-sponsored insurance.
In the years leading up to the passage of federal health care reform legislation in March, about 310,000 non-elderly Iowans were uninsured — adding up to about 11.8 percent of Iowa’s population. There were about 51 million uninsured people in the United States.
“Although Iowa has made important strides in covering children, the overall loss of health coverage is a serious problem,” said Noga O’Connor, research associate for the Iowa Policy Project, which along with the Child and Family Policy Center makes up IFP.
More specifically, employer-sponsored coverage dropped to 68.6 percent for 2008-09, from 70.9 percent in 2006-07. The number of uninsured children remained low for Iowa, however, maintaining at 5.6 percent. The IFP said Medicaid and the state-wide Hawk-i program softened the blow for children. Medicaid coverage for non-elderly Iowans rose to 14 percent.
“The rise in the uninsurance rates for Iowans highlights the importance of the new health reform law,” O’Connor said. “The new law will enable many uninsured Iowans to receive coverage through Medicaid and through the new health insurance exchanges.”
The data released Thursday accompanies other Census data that shows the poverty rate is at the highest level in the last 50 years. In fact, data shows that 1 in 7 Americans lived in poverty during that time — a trend that Iowa was not immune to. The official poverty threshold for 2009 for a family of four was $21,954.
Iowa saw a .5 percentage point increase from 2006-07 in the poverty rate to 10.1 percent. Median household income also dropped one percentage point from $50,896 in 2006-07 to $50,337 in 2008-09. IFP indicated that more complete poverty data for Iowa would be released by Sept. 28.
Members of the IFP wanted to be clear on the fact that neither the jobs gained nor benefits earned through the federal stimulus were accounted in this new data, as the legislation was passed after the information was collected. Mike Crawford, senior associate at CFPC and director of its Kids Count project, said the poverty rates would be substantially higher if it were not for the recovery legislation passed in the last two years.
“We can say that without the Recovery Act, poverty would be even worse. Unfortunately, we may be able to see in the future just how much worse, because several key aspects of the Act are scheduled to expire,” Crawford said. “In other words, we can expect poverty to rise even higher if Congress does not act.”
Crawford further noted that certain provisions in the Recovery Act that are expiring soon will affect Iowans, including extra weeks of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed and expanded Child Tax Credit for working families.