Rural Areas More Likely to Lack Insurance

[imgbelt img=under_insured.jpg]Nonmetro residents are more likely than metro residents to lack health insurance. And nonmetro residents are losing insurance at a faster rate than residents of metropolitan areas.



Daily Yonder/Census

(Click the map to make it interactive.) In darker counties, a higher percentage of the population does not have health insurance (metro counties are blue). Click on individual counties for data on that location.

Residents of nonmetro counties are more likely to lack health insurance than their counterparts in metropolitan counties, a Daily Yonder analysis shows.

And the ranks of the uninsured are swelling at a much faster rate in rural areas than they are in metropolitan counties.

The map above shows the percentage of residents aged 65 and under who lack health insurance. The darker the county, the higher the percentage of people who lack insurance. (Blue counties are metro.) Click on the map to make it interactive. Then click on any county to see the data for that location.

The Daily Yonder analysis looked at the latest Census data that estimates the number of residents aged 65 and under who lack health insurance. In metropolitan counties in 2011, 17.2% of the population aged 65 and under lacked health insurance. In nonmetropolitan counties, 18.7% of this population lacked health insurance – 1.5 percentage points higher than the metropolitan rate.

The difference between metro and nonmetro counties became more dramatic when you look at the change in uninsured residents over the last several years.

From 2007 to 2011, an additional 873,000 people became uninsured in the United States. Nonmetro counties accounted for 442,000, or just over half of the growth in uninsured residents. That’s more than three times the number of uninsured we would expect to see if the increase was occurring evenly across metro and nonmetro areas.

Overall, in nonmetropolitan areas, the percentage of the population aged 65 and under who were uninsured rose by 1.2 percentage points from 2007 to 2011. The percentage increase in metropolitan counties over the same period was a barely perceptible 0.05 percentage points.

The loss of jobs in rural areas might be one reason for the decline in health insurance in rural areas. Most U.S. workers get insurance through their employer, according to a Census study.  Since 2007 the number of jobs in nonmetro counties has dropped by 646,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 (or Obama Care) is not a factor in the study, because most provisions of the act were not yet in effect when the data was collected.