South Florida has high rate of uninsured

The Miami HeraldSeptember 23, 2009 

A stunning 53 percent of adults ages 18-64 in Hialeah lack health insurance — almost three times the national average. Meanwhile, only 13.8 percent of that age group in Weston are uninsured — the lowest rate in South Florida.

Such exact numbers became available for the first time Tuesday as the U.S. Census Bureau published the most detailed information ever about where the uninsured are located, including all communities with a population over 70,000.

As the nation's leaders continue to argue about the merits of health care reform, the 2008 data, released as part of the American Community Survey, confirmed what has long been known — that Florida in general and South Florida in particular have unusually high rates of uninsured.

In Florida, an average of 3.7 million are uninsured over the past three years — 20.5 percent — the fourth-highest rate in the country. In Broward, 21.8 percent are uninsured. In Miami-Dade, it's 28.1 — almost twice the national average of 15 percent.

Because Medicare covers most of the elderly and various state-federal programs are available to many children, the biggest disparities appear in the 18-64 age group. More than a third of Miami-Dade residents in this category are uninsured, led by Hialeah (53.1 percent) and Miami (45.8). In Broward, Pompano Beach was highest, with 39.6 percent.

Most experts said they were not surprised to see so many uninsured in Hialeah, where 95.9 percent of the population is Hispanic, according to the latest Census data. "The highest rate of uninsured in the country are Hispanics," noted Steven Ullmann, a health policy expert at the University of Miami.

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