LOS ANGELES - A survey of Los Angeles County residents shows that nearly one in three adults and one in five children are without health insurance, statistics that place Los Angeles near the bottom of national rankings. The survey, sponsored by the County's Department of Health Services (DHS), shows that the total uninsured population in Los Angeles County exceeded 2.5 million in 1999 despite modest increases in private insurance coverage.
"Lack of health insurance and the resulting decrease in access to services are serious failings here and around the country," said Mark Finucane, Director of the Department of Health Services. "The situation is particularly severe in Los Angeles County. Action is urgently needed at the state and federal level to address this increasingly dire situation."
Public Health, a division of DHS, released the figures today - the first topic of an in-depth survey examining health-related issues for adults and children. The Los Angeles County Health Survey was repeated in September 1999 through April 2000; the biennial survey was first conducted in 1997.
There were modest improvements in insurance coverage for children (birth -- 17 years). Twenty percent, or 570,000 children, were uninsured in 1999 compared to 25%, or 700,000 children, who had no health insurance in 1997. The improvement in insurance rates for children was due to successful enrollment of eligible children into Medi-Cal and Healthy Families and improved private insurance coverage among the more affluent.
The percentage of Latino children who were uninsured was much greater than that of whites (8%), African-Americans (7%) or Asian-Americans (12%).
"Improved insurance rates among children is heartening, but Latino children have been left behind," said Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and County Health Officer.
Although the percentage of uninsured adults (18 - 64 years) decreased by three percent (34% in 1997 to 31% in 1999) the growth in the County's population kept the number of uninsured adults about the same (1.97 million uninsured in 1997 and 1.93 million in 1999). Latinos lagged behind in this category as well with one in two remaining uninsured despite a very high percentage of the uninsured are either in the work force or have a family member who works. For children, 82% of the uninsured had at least one parent in the workforce.
"It is critical that employers help improve the rates of coverage for their uninsured employees and their dependents," said Dr. Fielding.
The Los Angeles County Health Survey is a population-based telephone survey of approximately 8,000 households in the County, examining health and health-related issues for adults and children. Field Research Corporation conducted the survey for DHS with support from the California Department of Health Services and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services.
Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 3,600 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $430 million.