Few city children are uninsured

Compared to those who live in neighboring cities, New Haven residents fare relatively well in terms of insurance coverage, new data suggest.

According to newly compiled data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, 3.5 percent of children in New Haven are uninsured, while the city’s overall uninsured rate of 13.4 percent. The figures place New Haven ahead of peer cities such as Stamford and Norwalk, Conn., all of which have higher median incomes per capita. Still, the city’s uninsured rate is 4.4 percent above the state average

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“This is, in no small portion, because of Yale,” said Nicholas Perna, a expert on Connecticut’s economy and a lecturer in the Yale Economics Department. “Yale and Yale-New Haven Hospital are the city’s two major employers, and nearly all employees have insurance.”

But the statistics suggest that local residents have comparatively greater access to health care services, said Amy Casavina-Hall, director of community impact at United Way of Greater New Haven. She cautioned against placing too much faith in the new data.

“The data from the census is very striking,” Casavina-Hall said. “But the relatively high number of insured residents can be explained by the greater number of people being able to access low-income public health care.”

Perna noted that the low percentage of uninsured children in New Haven speaks to high enrollments in the Healthcare for Uninsured Kids and Youth program, which offers full health care coverage to children under the age of 19, and that the statistics will further improve once the state’s universal health care plan, known as SustiNet, takes effect in the coming years.

Casavina-Hall added that improvements, especially in the areas of maternity care, infant mortality and teenage pregnancy, need to be made if the quality health care services in the city is to match the standards offered in the rest of Connecticut. The new plan, which was passed despite a veto from Gov. M. Jodi Rell, will improve resident’s access to primary and preventative care, legislators have said.

City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said that while local officials have yet to examine the full details of the new data, the city has worked to help direct local residences to all available publicly funded health care services.

“We offer assistance to help determine whether children qualify for HUSKY and advocate for better health care services for local residents,” Mayorga said.

Connecticut Voices for Children, a think tank dedicated to finding public policy solutions to improving youth and family services, said the data indicate the need for national health insurance reform to ensure coverage for the over 300,000 state residents that remain without health care coverage, particularly when many are losing their insurance due to layoffs.

“We need action on health care reform from Congress before our economic downturn makes Connecticut’s health insurance problems even worse,” Sharon Langer, a senior policy fellow with the organization, said in a statement yesterday.

The data, collected for the first time in the American Community Survey in 2008, will become a staple of the Census Bureau’s annual reports.


  • Clark Kent

    Pam Dawkins
    Posted: 04/17/2009 09:40:41 AM EDT

    Do you earn nearly $70,000 a year?
    If not, then you can’t afford to rent a modest, two-bedroom apartment in the Stamford/Norwalk area — which a new report names the nation’s most expensive rental market.

    The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual Out of Reach report, released Tuesday, details the hourly wage needed to afford that two-bedroom apartment by state, county and metropolitan area. The Stamford/Norwalk area has the dubious distinction of requiring the highest hourly wage of any place in the nation, while Danbury ranked eighth; other parts of the state did not make the top 10. Connecticut was sixth — behind Hawaii, California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts — in a state ranking of the highest “housing wage” requirement for a two- bedroom apartment.

    “Unfortunately, the situ ation continues to be bleak for people trying to find an affordable rental in Connecticut,” said Jeffrey Freiser, executive director of the Connecticut Housing Coalition, which partnered with the national organization on the report.

    According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a household should not pay more than 30 percent of its total income on housing.
    According to the state DOL, the average hourly wage in February for a manufacturing worker was $22.16, and $25.62 for a construction worker. Anyone earning the state’s minimum wage of $8 an hour — or $16,320 a year — would have to work 164 hours a week to afford housing in Fairfield County, Freiser said.

    And there are new problems to add to Connecticut’s traditional pressure points of a lack of land for new housing and proximity to the New York metropolitan area.

    “The foreclosure crisis has clearly increased pressure on the rental market,” Freiser said. Not only are people who are losing their houses now looking for rentals, he said, but some renters have to find other places to live because their landlords are being foreclosed upon, and tighter underwriting standards are making it harder for renters to move into home ownership.

    Growing unemployment and wage cuts are exacerbating the situation, Freiser said. Many renters “are teetering on the brink of homelessness,” he said. This at a time when Gov. M. Jodi Rell has proposed cutting some housing programs because of the state’s own budget crisis, Freiser said, adding, “Homeless shelters are seeing ever-increasing demand,” most significantly among families.

    On a conference call with reporters, Sheila Crowley, president of the NLIHC, said the shortage of rental homes for low-income families is a long-standing problem that, combined with the recession, promises a growth in homelessness “not seen since the 1980s.”

    There was no place in the United States where someone earning the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour could afford even a one-bedroom apartment, she said. “Affordability improves only when incomes increase relative to rents,” she said.