By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
In 2010, Todd County had Kentucky’s third-highest rate of people without health insurance, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Of roughly 10,458 people below age 65, the county had about 2,455 who didn’t have health insurance. That’s 23.5 percent.
The only counties topping it were Casey and Monroe.
Judge-Executive Daryl Greenfield noted that Todd has a fairly high number of people who are self-employed. Many don’t get health insurance from their companies and can’t afford to buy it independently, he said.
But on the other hand, a large share of the population commutes to Christian or Logan counties or to Clarksville, Tenn., for jobs, he said. So the self-employed workers don’t by themselves explain the high rate.
“I don’t know exactly why it’d be that much higher than other counties around,” he said.
The census bureau released these figures last week. They include estimates of health insurance coverage for every county in the U.S., and users can get additional information on the breakdown by age and income level.
Of Kentucky’s 120 counties, Christian’s uninsured rate ranked 97th. Out of roughly 61,557 people who were not senior citizens, about 10,759 in this county lacked health insurance. This makes a percentage of 17.5.
Trigg’s uninsured rate ranked 24th. Of 11,531 people, about 2,410 didn’t have insurance. That’s a percentage of 20.9.
These figures exclude senior citizens because they typically qualify for Medicare. However, the figures don’t distinguish between people who simply can’t afford insurance and those who choose not to buy it. Sometimes the distinction between those two groups gets blurry.
In general, Todd’s unemployment rate didn’t stand out from other Kentucky counties during 2010. That year it averaged an unemployment rate of 10.6 percent, compared to 12 percent in Christian County and 11.7 percent in Trigg County.
Counties whose economies depend on agriculture often have high uninsured rates, because so many farming jobs don’t come with employer-sponsored health plans. But the census bureau recorded fewer than 19 farming jobs in Todd County in 2010.
By contrast, 292 residents reported that they had manufacturing jobs in Todd County, and 226 said they worked in health care or “social assistance.”
Greenfield speculated that Todd County’s Amish residents, most of whom likely don’t buy health insurance, might affect the rate. Given the county’s small population, each demographic group has a significant impact, he said.
The state government has a chance to expand the Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act. The federal government would foot most — but not all — of the bill.
If it takes the expansion, roughly 1,170 poor Todd County residents who don’t have insurance would likely qualify for Medicaid. (This doesn’t account for changes since 2010.) All of those uninsured people fall below 138 percent of the federal poverty line.
Another 1,083 people in Trigg and 5,190 in Christian would qualify, according to the census data.
Greenfield said the cost of insurance is hurting the county’s budget as well. It goes up almost every year, and the county now asks employees to contribute $100 for their plans, he said.
The New Era could not reach Jen Harris, director of the Todd County Health Department, for comment.