17.4 percent of Kentuckians in poverty; 17.5 percent have no health insurance

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comSeptember 14, 2011 

An estimated 17.4 percent of people in Kentucky were living in poverty in 2010, and 17.5 percent had no health insurance, according to preliminary U.S. Census data released Tuesday.

Nationally, 15.1 percent of people were in poverty and 16.3 percent lacked health insurance during 2010.

Changes in the state's poverty rate and health insurance coverage rate from the previous year were not statistically significant, said Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

For a family of four, the poverty line is an annual income of $22,314 or less for a family of four.

"These numbers reflect our continued high unemployment as well as the inadequacies of our health care system," Bailey said in a statement "They highlight the need to jump-start job creation and recommit to moving forward on health care reform."

About 640,000 Kentuckians do not have health insurance, in part because they have lost employer-sponsored insurance during the past decade, Bailey said. Sixty-five percent of Kentuckians had employer-based insurance in 2000, but only 57 percent had it in 2010.

Bailey and Katie Carter, senior policy analyst for Kentucky Youth Advocates, said government investment in health care through Medicaid and the Kentucky Children's Health Insurance Program had increased in recent years.

Medicaid, the federal and state health care program for the poor and disabled, covered nearly one in five Kentucky residents in 2010, up from about one in 10 Kentuckians in 2000, Bailey said.

The percent of children covered by Medicaid in Kentucky rose 6 percentage points since 2007-08, to 40 percent, keeping the number of uninsured children low, Carter said.

"Our leaders in Frankfort and in Washington must stop using health coverage and other critical supports for struggling families as part of re-election gamesmanship," said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. "Deficit-reduction and budget-balancing are vital issues but are not reason enough to slash supports for vulnerable families."

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

Reach Valarie Honeycutt Spears at (859) 231-3409 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3409.

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