Uninsured Rates In Georgia Expected To Increase
Twenty percent of Georgia residents younger than age 65 in 2007 did not have health insurance, nearly the same rate as in 2006, but the number of uninsured residents is expected to increase in 2008 and 2009 because of the economic recession, according to a study released Thursday by the Center for Health Services Research at Georgia State University, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The study used 2007 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the most recent data available, and data from an independent survey commissioned by the Georgia Department of Community Health.
The study found that the percentage of residents younger than age 65 with private health coverage dropped from a two-year average of 75% in 2000 and 2001 to 67% in 2006 and 2007, which is in line with national trends, the Journal-Constitution reports. In addition, enrollment in the state Medicaid program and PeachCare, the state version of SCHIP, has increased during that time, according to the study. The study also found that rural-area residents, who more often have lower incomes and work for small firms, are more likely to be uninsured than residents who live in urban or suburban areas.
Bill Custer, director of CHSR, said, "We had pretty good economic growth in 2007," adding, "This is the best the decade has to offer. We'd expect these numbers to be dramatically worse now."
Over the past 12 months, about 61,000 jobs have been eliminated statewide, raising the state's jobless rate to 7% from 4.4% in fall 2007. The Journal-Constitution reports that the loss of jobs might contribute to an increase in the number of uninsured residents as people lose employer-sponsored health coverage. Custer said that a large percentage of state residents work for small businesses, which "are more likely to go out of business." He added, "If they survive, they're less likely to offer benefits."
In addition, hospitals and physicians statewide in the last few months have reported an increase in the number of uninsured patients seeking care. The Georgia Free Clinic Network reported a 25% to 30% increase in clinic patients compared with the same period in 2007 (Miller, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/12).
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