The heat isn’t the only thing above average in Florida of late. As noted in the Washington Post, US Census data released this past Tuesday reveal that Florida has the dubious honor of ranking 3rd nationwide in the percentage of individuals under age 65 without health insurance. In this instance, we were fortunately beaten out of the #1 and #2 slots by Texas and New Mexico, whose uninsured populations are 26.8% and 26.7%, respectively.
Nearly a quarter of Florida’s residents (24.2%) lack any form of health insurance coverage—and that includes children. Within Heart of Florida United Way’s service area, the numbers aren’t any better.
In Orange County, 22.5% (or 215,234 children and adults) are uninsured. Seminole County is slightly better, with 21.2% (or 77,295 children and adults) uninsured. However, Osceola County’s percentage of uninsured tops both other counties as well as the state average—over a quarter of its residents, 26.0% (60,299 children and adults) lack coverage.
It could be worse. At least we aren’t Kenedy County, Texas, where nearly 50% of residents (49.5%) lack health insurance coverage. But we should look to Plymouth County, Mass., and Henry County, Iowa, as examples of where we could be—only 6.6% of their residents lack insurance coverage. These numbers are an eye-opener to the drastic coverage disparities between counties in Florida and among states across the nation.
So, what’s the takeaway? Healthy children are ready to learn in school. Healthy adults are more productive at work. Healthy children and families are the foundation for vibrant communities. In light of the recent state and county budget cuts, we know that resources for those without health insurance coverage are on the decline—and fast. Regardless of where you stand on recent health care reform, it’s hard to dispute that while access to health insurance doesn’t equal good health, it sure is a good start.
Bridget Healy, MNM, MPA, is a Community Investment Manager for United Way’s “Developing Healthy Children and Families” focus area.