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Utah's share of residents without health insurance dipped for a fourth consecutive year in 2014, but it remains above the national rate, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday.
The latest numbers indicate 12.5 percent of Utahns were uninsured last year, compared to 10.4 percent nationwide. About 36 million people across the country do not have insurance, the Census Bureau said, with about 365,523 of them in Utah.
One advocate for the poor tied Utah's numbers directly to the state Legislature's controversial delay in expanding health programs for low-income residents.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia, meanwhile, saw their insured rates rise between 2013 and 2014, according to new Census numbers. The trend has been due, officials say, to the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."
Census numbers indicate about three in four Utahns were covered by a private health-insurance policy in 2014, compared to 20.8 percent who relied on some kind of government-sponsored coverage.
Not surprisingly, the newly released American Community Survey also indicates Utahns were significantly more likely to be uninsured when their yearly household incomes fell below $25,000. The likelihood of not having insurance was also higher for Utah residents who have not graduated high school, for those who work part time or are unemployed, or those who are foreign-born.
Nearly a third of Utah's Latino population was uninsured in 2014, Census numbers show, compared to slightly less than one in 10 of all white, non-Latino residents.
Among Utah's largest cities, uninsured rates last year reached as high as 26.1 percent of residents in West Valley City and 21.1 percent in Ogden.
Rates were lower among larger cities with higher median incomes, such as Sandy (9.5 percent), West Jordan (10.1 percent) and Salt Lake City (18.1 percent).
The uninsured rate for all of Salt Lake County was 13.7 percent. Weber County's rate was 12.1 percent. In Utah County, it was 10.8 percent and in Davis County, 7.8 percent.
Utah's statewide rate of uninsured residents was the 15th highest in the country. Neighboring states Nevada, New Mexico, Montana, Arizona and Idaho had higher percentages of residents who were uninsured.
Texas had the nation's top uninsured rate in 2014, at 19.1 percent. The state with the lowest rate was Massachusetts home of so-called "Romneycare" at 3.3 percent.
An advocate for disadvantaged children in Utah said the latest numbers indicate the state is lagging in health-insurance coverage while the rest of the country makes historic gains.
The gap, according to Jessie Mandle with Voices for Utah Children, is a direct result of the state Legislature's former refusal to take federal money to expand Medicaid coverage for the state's low-income residents.
"If Utah had accepted Medicaid expansion dollars," said Mandle, health policy analyst for the nonprofit group, "the state wouldn't have fallen behind."
After several years of debate, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and Republican-dominated Legislature only recently agreed in principle to a tentative deal for accepting additional Medicaid dollars from the U.S. government. Legislators previously had balked at the idea out of concern over expanding U.S. government programs without a financial cap and a wariness over federal involvement in state policies.
Mandle noted that the percentage of impoverished Americans without insurance had dropped by almost twice as much from 2013 to 2014 in those states that have expanded Medicaid as compared to states that have not.
A special Utah legislative session is expected this fall to address and possibly approve a market-driven state plan for accepting nearly $1 billion in new Medicaid money.
Percentage of Uninsured Residents
2013 / 2014
Utah • 14.0 / 12.5
Ogden • 21.3 / 21.1
Salt Lake City • 18.3 / 18.1
West Valley City • 25.4 / 26.1
Sandy • 9.8 / 9.5
West Jordan • 14.2 / 10.1
Orem • 18.3 / 15.5
Provo • 13.0 / 13.7
Weber County • 14.3 / 12.1
Davis County • 9.0 / 7.8
Salt Lake County • 15.9 / 13.7
Utah County • 12.5 / 10.8
Source: American Community Survey 2014 / US. Census Bureau