WASHINGTON – Almost one Arizonan in five was without health insurance in 2010, with the number rising to one in four in some of the state’s hardest-hit counties, according to a Census Bureau report.
The report said that Arizona’s overall uninsured rate for people under age 65 stood at 19.3 percent in 2010, slightly higher than the national average of 17.7 percent for the same year.
Gila County remained just barely above the state average in the survey. However, some 30 percent of Gila County residents have coverage through the state/federal AHCCCS program — one of the highest rates in the state.
Texas was the worst state in the nation when it came to medical insurance, with 26.3 percent of its population uninsured in 2010. Massachusetts posted the best rate at just 5.2 percent.
Tara Plese, a spokeswoman for Arizona Association of Community Health Centers, said the numbers are significant for Arizona, as they translate into a “tremendous number” of patients seeking uncompensated medical attention.
“We are really seeing it in our health centers,” Plese said.
The bureau’s Small Area Health Insurance Estimates report, released recently, said La Paz, Santa Cruz and Yuma counties were the worst-off in Arizona in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available.
The Census report, which provides estimates for every county in the nation, said 25.5 percent of La Paz County residents were uninsured in 2010, a number that has been steady since 2008.
The report includes almost any type of insurance — whether Medicaid, private or employer-based — when determining who is covered. The only type of health care excluded in the report is Indian Health Service coverage.
Wes Basel, the Census Bureau team lead for the SAHIE project, said the exclusion of IHS coverage could help explain the higher rates of uninsured people in those parts of the country with large numbers of American Indians.
Overall, the percentage of Arizonans with health insurance had improved — but only slightly — from 2008 to 2010, according to the report.