New Data Find 124,000 Mainers Lack Health Insurance

Maine’s Uninsured – 1 out of 10 Mainers Lacks Health Insurance:

Approximately 124,000 or 9.5 percent of Mainers did not have health insurance coverage in the 2004-2006 period, according to data released today in the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. Nationwide, t he number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 44.8 million (15.3 percent) in 2005 to 47 million (15.8 percent) in 2006.

“The health insurance numbers are of particular interest given the looming showdown between Congress and the President over children’s health insurance (SCHIP). Despite American families’ continued struggle to afford health insurance for their children, the President has vowed to veto legislation Congress passed this summer that would extend health insurance to millions of uninsured children. As Senators Snowe and Collins and Congressmen Allen and Michaud return to Washington, they should continue to strongly support this legislation and force the President to rethink his position,” said Policy Analyst Ed Cervone from the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

More Children in Poverty – Household Incomes Down

Census Bureau data released today show that over the 2005-2006 period, 11.4 percent of Mainers were poor, down from 11.6 percent in the 2003-2004 period and up from 10.2 percent in the 2000-2001 period, just prior to and during the recession. [i] Nationwide, over the 2005-2006 period, 12.5 percent of population was poor. This is slightly down from the 12.6 percent in the 2003-2004 period but significantly higher than the 11.5 percent in the 2000-2001 period.

The Census Bureau also released data showing that child poverty in Maine remained higher in 2006 than in 2001. [ii] And while median household income declined slightly in Maine as compared to 2005 (although not statistically significant), it remained statistically unchanged from its 2001 recession level and statistically below its 2002 level.

Taken together, these new data show that many low- and moderate-income families have not regained ground lost during the recession.

Poor Families and Children in Maine

The Census Bureau released detailed data on poverty among different demographic groups in Maine. They show that poverty among children stood at 16.7 percent in 2006, up from 10.4 percent in 2001. Child poverty declined compared to last year although not significantly. For Maine families, 8.7 percent were poor in 2006, higher than the 7.9 percent of families in 2001, although not significantly so.

It is particularly disappointing that five years after the recession, that even though relative to the rest of the nation Maine’s poverty rate is one of the lowest, the statewide and family poverty rates have not improved and the child poverty rate has worsened.

Median Household Incomes Down in Maine

In 2006, median household income in our state stood at $43,439. This was a real $765 decrease over the 2005 level (although not statistically significant). This also represents no statistically significant change from the 2001 recession level but is a real decrease of $1,379 from 2002. This shows that despite relatively strong economic growth, at least nationally, since 2001, many low- and moderate-income households have not regained ground lost during the downturn.

Moving Forward – Critical Steps in Washington To Help Our Kids

For an economy in its fifth year of recovery, the new Census Bureau figures paint a disappointing picture for Maine. Working families in Maine continue to miss out on the national recovery and inevitably, their children feel the effects the most.

Maine Center for Economic Federal Policy Analyst, Nicole Witherbee remarked, “As Congress heads back to Washington, the new data show that we face a number of challenges. Our leaders can take an immediate step to address one of these problems by agreeing on a plan to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Given the great number of children that remain uninsured, the Bush Administration should reconsider its positions on children’s health insurance and work with Congress to improve children’s health coverage by renewing and strengthening SCHIP.”

[i] The two-year poverty figures cited here are from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Today the Census Bureau also released single-year figures on overall poverty in STATE from the American Community Survey (ACS), but because of methodological changes, the ACS data are not comparable to prior-year data on overall poverty.

[ii] The data on child poverty cited here are from the ACS and reflect poverty among “related children” — children that live with at least one family member. (Nationally, 98 percent of all children fit into this category.) These data are comparable across years. Data on overall child poverty — which includes children who do not live with relatives — are not comparable across years because of the methodological changes made in the ACS.