New Census Bureau Uninsured Estimates, Part 2: The American Community Survey

Today marks the second in a series of two data releases from the U.S. Census Bureau this month: findings from the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS) were released this morning.

On the national level, approximately 46.4 million Americans were uninsured in 2011. That’s down significantly from the 47.2 million who were uninsured in 2010. To put it differently, in 2011 an estimated 15.1 percent of the population was uninsured, compared to 15.5 percent in 2010.

Colorado was one of twenty states that recorded a statistically significant decline in the uninsured rate between 2010 and 2011, with an estimated 760,000 people uninsured in 2011, compared to 789,000 uninsured in 2010. So the uninsured rate decreased from 15.9 percent in 2010 to 15.1 percent in 2011. 

There are a few different sources of health insurance estimates besides the ACS, and you may be scratching your head over which to use. Other sources include the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS), both of which indicated an increase in Colorado’s uninsured population. All of the surveys have strengths, and many of the differences have to do with how the surveys are collected and analyzed. Despite these differences and the seemingly conflicting results, the bottom line is that all of the surveys agree that between 15 and 16 percent of Coloradans (or over 750,000 individuals) reported lacking health insurance in 2011.

Which brings us back to the ACS. The ACS is unique in that it has the largest sample size—approximately 50,000 Coloradans are surveyed each year. That allows us to dive deeper into the data and examine rates of uninsurance across sub-populations. Here are a few interesting highlights:

  1. While Colorado’s overall uninsured rate declined slightly, some populations saw even larger declines. For example, the uninsured rate for Colorado’s Hispanics declined from 30 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2011, a three percentage point decrease.
  2. Approximately 26 percent of Coloradans with annual household incomes of less than $25,000 were uninsured in 2011. This is down from 29 percent in 2010, and is the largest drop of any income category.
  3. Between 2010 and 2011, Mesa County saw the largest decline in its uninsured rate (a six percentage point decrease). Pueblo County also saw a large decline, with a drop of five percentage points.

For more information about today’s ACS release, check out CHI’s fact sheet.

Emily King is a research analyst at CHI.