Ten States Dying for Health Coverage

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5. New Mexico
> Excess deaths from a lack of insurance (per 100,000): 12.15
> Pct. of population uninsured: 19.6% (6th highest)
> Pct. living below the poverty line: 20.4% (tied for the highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.21 years (20th lowest)

New Mexico has a fairly healthy population, with relatively low heart disease and obesity rates. However, just 55.8% of residents have private health insurance — the lowest rate of any state in the country. One possible reason is that few employers provide insurance — just 45.6% of the population has employer-based health coverage. The relative poverty of the state also means many residents cannot afford medical coverage. The median income in the state was just above $42,000 in 2010, far below the national median of about $50,000, while 20.4% of people live below the poverty line — the highest rate in the country.

4. South Carolina
> Excess deaths from a lack of insurance (per 100,000): 13.48
> Pct. of population uninsured: 17.5% (tied for 12th highest)
> Pct. living below the poverty line: 18.2% (7th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.57 years (9th lowest)

South Carolina is not a particularly healthy state: 67.4% of the state’s residents are either overweight or obese, just 23.3% eat proper amounts of fruit, only 22.9% eat proper amounts of vegetables and 10.7% are diabetic. All of these are among the highest rates in the country. Meanwhile, much of the cost of health care falls to private individuals. The state spends about $6,300 per person on health care in 2009, among the lowest levels, and just 51.9% of residents have employer-based health coverage. Unfortunately, South Carolinians have trouble affording insurance on their own: median income was just $42,000 in 2010, significantly lower than the $50,000 national average, 18.2% of residents live below the poverty line and the cost of health care is higher than many states.

3. Arkansas
> Excess deaths from a lack of insurance (per 100,000): 13.49
> Pct. of population uninsured: 17.5% (tied for 12th highest)
> Pct. living below the poverty line: 18.8% (5th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.09 years (6th lowest)

According to the Council for Community and Economic Research’s ACCRA Cost of Living Index, Arkansas had the second-lowest cost of health care in the United States. However, with 18.8% of the population living below the poverty line and a median annual household income of just $38,307 — both among the lowest figures for any state — many Arkansans cannot afford private health coverage. As a result, just 58.78% of the population has private insurance, the sixth-lowest figure in the country.

2. Louisiana
> Excess deaths from a lack of insurance (per 100,000): 14.94
> Pct. of population uninsured: 17.8% (10th highest)
> Pct. living below the poverty line: 18.7% (6th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.39 years (4th lowest)

Louisiana has one of the lowest life expectancies at birth in the U.S. at 75.4 years. Though much of this certainly can be attributed to poor health choices — the state has a higher number of smokers and its residents eat comparatively little fruit or vegetables — the inability of many residents to receive proper care due to lack of insurance is also a contributing factor. In Louisiana, 17.8% of the population goes without health insurance, despite the fact that 21.9% of the population qualifies for Medicaid — the fifth-highest proportion among all 50 states. The high uninsurance rate is partly due to the relative economic disadvantage of the state’s residents. With 18.7% of residents living below the poverty line — the sixth-highest rate in the nation — and a median income that is more than $5,000 lower than the U.S. average, just 58.39% of the population have private insurance. That is the fourth-lowest such rate in the nation.

Also Read: Ten Brands That Will Disappear In 2013

1. Mississippi
> Excess deaths from a lack of insurance (per 100,000): 15.82
> Pct. of population uninsured: 18.2% (9th highest)
> Pct. living below the poverty line: 22.4% (tied for the highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 74.81 years (The lowest)

Many residents of Mississippi cannot afford insurance: the state has lowest median income in the nation and the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line. As a result, Mississippi has the second-lowest percentage of residents with private health insurance coverage, at 56.49%. Exacerbating the problem, residents are especially unhealthy. Among all states, Mississippi has the second-highest obesity rate, the second-highest percentage of adults with diabetes and the fifth-highest percentage of adult smokers in the nation. Likely the result of both high uninsurance rates and poor personal health, Mississippi is the only state where life expectancy was below 75 years at birth in 2010. Mississippi’s excess death rate was the highest among all states and twice that of 28 states in 2010.

-Alexander E. M. Hess and Samuel Weigley

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