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More Californians lack health insurance, study finds
28.7 percent of Stanislaus County residents uninsured in 2009
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The number of people living with the risks of no health insurance has surged upwards, according to a study released Monday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The study found that the toll the recession has taken on personal finances has had a similar impact on health insurance coverage.

The study estimates that 24.3 percent, or about 8.4 million Californians under the age of 64 years were without health insurance for all or part of 2009. The number of uninsured grew by about two million since 2007, when the last insurance survey was conducted.

Every county in the state saw an increase in the uninsured population, with 37 counties — including all eight in the San Joaquin Valley — recording uninsured rates higher than the state average.

In Stanislaus County the number of people 64 and younger without health insurance in 2009 was 28.7 percent of the population, or about 141,778 people, according to the study’s findings.

The rate grew by 6.4 percent in the course of two years.

In Merced County the rate was 31.6 percent and in San Joaquin County it reached 28.2 percent.

Five counties in the San Joaquin Valley — Madera, Merced, Kern, Stanislaus, and Kings — were in the bottom 10 when it comes to the number of people who have insurance coverage.

In 2007, only four counties were in the bottom 10 ranking.

The report found that the areas that had the highest numbers of uninsured were also the areas with the highest unemployment rates. The researchers also found corresponding drops in both household income and job-based coverage contributed to the ranks of the uninsured.

The national health care reform package will offer federal subsidies for purchasing health insurance and will expand Medi-Cal coverage, but those reforms will not go into effect until 2014.

"Health care reform is several years away, but families are dealing with health problems right now," said Shana Alex Lavarreda, lead researcher on the report. "Every effort should be made to help families in need even sooner than 2014."  The county estimates were based on a simulation model that predicted changes in county-level uninsurance using data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey adjusted with 2009 county unemployment rates, and taking into account simultaneous decreases in household income. The model also included county-level increases in public health insurance from 2007 to 2009, based on administrative data from Medi-Cal and Healthy Families enrollment counts.  To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.