Sunday, July 29, 2012

DHS Survey Illustrates Large Disparities in Insurance Coverage

Long-awaited 2010 Survey Results Show 11% Uninsured for All or Part of Year

Data released a week or so ago by the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services (DHS) indicate that an estimated 579,000 people were uninsured in Wisconsin for all or part of the 12 months preceding the department’s 2010 Family Health Survey.  That amounts to 11 percent of state residents.

One of the striking things about the long-awaited 2010 data is the extent of the disparities in health insurance coverage among different populations in Wisconsin. Based on the data regarding the 6% of Wisconsin residents uninsured for all of the previous 12 months, some of the noteworthy disparities include the following:
  • The uninsured rate was just 4% for non-Hispanic whites, compared to 11% for non-Hispanic blacks and 24% for Hispanics.
  • About 14% of Wisconsinites below the poverty level were uninsured all year, compared to 8% of the “near-poor” (between 100% and 200% of the poverty level), and just 3% of those over that income range. 
  • An estimated 11% of people in the City of Milwaukee were uninsured for the full year, versus 4% in other metropolitan areas, and 7% in non-metropolitan areas.
Some of the broader highlights of the data include the following:
  • About 309,000 Wisconsinites (6%) were uninsured for all of the previous 12 months, and another 270,000 were uninsured part of the year.
  • That 579,000 total includes 78,000 children (or roughly 6% of the state’s kids).
  • At any point in time during 2010, an average of about 412,000 Wisconsinites were uninsured, or 7% -- which is significantly below the 9% rate in 2009.
I always love analyzing this sort of data, but I’m somewhat less enthused about the 2010 DHS survey results than I’ve been in past years – for a number of reasons:
  • First, the DHS data is about 7 or 8 months later than usual this year, and we are just a couple of months away from the release of the 2011 Census Bureau data on health insurance coverage.
  • Second, DHS made some changes in the survey a couple of years ago, and that makes it problematic to compare the last two years with the previous Family Health Survey results.
  • Also, it’s hard to know what to make of some substantial differences between the DHS findings and the 2010 data from the Census Bureau.
Notwithstanding those considerations, the new data set is very useful for some purposes, such as showing the wide disparities in access to affordable insurance among different populations.

In a subsequent blog post, I’ll take a look at the DHS data relating to uninsured adults who don’t have dependent children and the 2010 Census Bureau data regarding that population.  The two surveys generated disparate results for the number of uninsured low-income "childless adults," and that's very frustrating because this is a very important number to have -- as we examine the benefits and cost of using the Affordable Care Act to close the gap in BadgerCare coverage.  

Jon Peacock

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