Census: 1 in 5 Wataugans uninsured
by Anna Oakes
One in five people in Watauga County do not have health
insurance, according to 2010 estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau
The Census Bureau released 2010 estimates of health
insurance coverage for each of the nation’s 3,140 counties. The estimates are based on
data from a variety of sources, including the American Community Survey (ACS),
Census Bureau population estimates, administrative records (such as tax returns
and Medicaid records) and 2000 Census statistics.
The percentage of citizens under age 65 (the age of
eligibility for Medicare) without health insurance was 20.1 percent in 2010,
according to the estimates. That’s slightly higher than the state average of 19.1
percent. Watauga’s 2010 estimate has increased since the 2000 figure of 12.8
Watauga’s neighbor to the northeast, Alleghany, was the
county with the highest percentage of uninsured residents in 2010, at 30.1
percent. The lowest was Wake — home to Raleigh — at 15.5 percent. No county was
in the single digits.
At once ranked as having one of the highest uninsured rates
in the state, Watauga County no longer has that dubious distinction despite its
high rate of 20 percent.
That’s because Appalachian State University recently enacted
a policy requiring all students to have health insurance, noted Community Care
Clinic Executive Director Melissa Selby, and because of the Affordable Care
Act, which allowed children to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans
until age 26.
The Community Care Clinic opened in Boone in 2006, providing
medical services to uninsured patients in Watauga County. The clinic saw more
than 3,000 patient visits in 2011.
With high unemployment, a poverty rate hovering around 25
percent and more people learning about the clinic, demand is as high as ever,
“The demand continues to go up as more and more people
become aware of the clinic,” she said. “The number of patients we see doesn’t
come near to seeing all of the uninsured in the county. We’re not seeing any
reduction in demand.”
In June, area health care representatives were informed that
the High Country had been approved for federal funding for a new low-cost
health care clinic. The clinic, High Country Community Health, will offer a
sliding-scale fee system for uninsured patients.
The Affordable Care Act is intended to expand health care
coverage to more Americans through health insurance exchanges and the expansion
of Medicaid to more individuals.
“Small Area Health Insurance Estimates will permit users to
track the impact of the law on small counties,” according to the Census Bureau.
For more information, visit http://www/sahie/index.html" rel='external'> http://www.census.gov/did/http://www/sahie/index.html.