New Census Data: Poverty and Uninsurance Rates Remain High in Kentucky

By Jason Bailey
September 13, 2011

New Census Data: Poverty and Uninsurance Rates Remain High in Kentucky

Numbers Underscore Need to Spur Job Growth and Implement Health Reform Law

An estimated 17.4 percent of Kentuckians live below the poverty line according to preliminary Census data released today, a substantial increase from 12.3 percent ten years ago. Census also reported that 640,000 Kentuckians lack health insurance.

“These numbers reflect our continued high unemployment as well as the inadequacies of our health care system,” said Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “They highlight the need to jump-start job creation and recommit to moving forward on health care reform.”

One in seven Kentuckians lacked health insurance in 2010 in large part because of the long-term erosion of employer-sponsored health care. While 65 percent of Kentuckians had employer-based care in 2000, only 57 percent do today.

Government investment in health care through Medicaid has played a huge role in keeping the coverage gap from being even larger. Medicaid covered nearly one in five Kentucky residents in 2010, up from about one in ten Kentuckians in 2000.

The steady decline of employer-sponsored coverage and the protective role of Medicaid illustrate the critical importance of implementing the new federal health law. Once in effect in 2014, an additional 32 million people nationwide—including an estimated 480,000 in Kentucky—will gain coverage under Medicaid or through health insurance exchanges as part of the new law.

“For too many Kentuckians, a middle class standard of living is out of reach because they lack jobs and health coverage,” said Bailey. “We need investments in infrastructure, education and other areas that can put people back to work. And we need protection for Medicaid and action to put the new health law into place.”

The state figures from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey are preliminary. They are the only data currently available on state poverty and health insurance trends through 2010. On September 22, the Census Bureau will release more definitive 2010 data as part of the American Community Survey, which is a larger review.

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The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy is a non-profit, non-partisan initiative that conducts research, analysis and education on important policy issues facing the Commonwealth. Launched in 2011, the Center receives support from foundation grants and individual donors and is a project of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED).