Thursday, July 5, 2012

Where are the uninsured?

By Jonathan Miller, Project Associate. 

The recent ruling from the Supreme Court upholding the individual mandate to purchase health care insurance is a defining moment for the future of care in America. As Stephanie Allen wrote earlier this week (Economic Development Rx) regarding the effect of the ruling on economic development, “Whatever else the health care bill is or may do, its aim is to make the people in communities across America healthier. And, a healthier community is a more vibrant and more productive one.” So, the question becomes, where are the communities that stand to gain the most from the individual mandate?

The following is a ranked list of the top 20 American cities that have the highest concentrations of uninsured people (the U.S. average is set to 1.0, so a value of 2.35 indicates that there are 2.35 times more uninsured people in the metro than in the U.S. as a whole). The table also contains the percent of uninsured and the percent of uninsured children (under the age of 18).

American Cities with Highest Concentrations of Uninsured Persons, 2010

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey

The list of cities is dominated by those in Sunbelt states, reaching from South Carolina all the way to New Mexico. Yakima, Washington is outside of the Sunbelt geography, but is in the part of Washington that is actually sundrenched (I should know, I grew up in Seattle).

The presence of 12 Texas cities on the list is intriguing as the productivity gains that could accrue in these cities - think healthy workers are less likely to use sick days and be stuck with crushing medical debt - have not been the rhetorical focus of Texas lawmakers (Gov. Rick Perry called the law a “stomach punch to the American economy”).

Whether you are for or against the health care reform and the individual mandate, there should be consensus that many cities and regions have much to gain, regardless of political ideology.