American Cities with the Worst Health Coverage


Approximately 83% of the U.S. population had some form of health insurance coverage in 2012, according to the latest data released jointly by Gallup and Healthways. While this was the first year of improvement since the group began the study, overall coverage remained lower than the 85% it was in 2008.

The level of health insurance coverage varies widely from city to city, according to the 2012 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. In metropolitan areas such as Boston and Burlington, Vt., more than 95% of residents were covered. At the same time, barely half of the residents were insured in McAllen, Texas, the metro area with the lowest coverage. Based on the Gallup-Healthways Index, the 10 metropolitan statistical areas with the worst health insurance coverage are featured here.

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These are the cities with the worst health coverage:

10. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.> Pct. insured: 73.6%> Pct. with a doctor: 63.2% (5th lowest)> Pct. with money for health care: 76.3% (12th lowest)> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 10.0% (45th highest)

Just over 63% of the population of Las Vegas had a personal doctor, a lower percentage than all but four other metropolitan areas. The service industry employed 31% of the workforce, higher than all but one other metropolitan area in the country. In addition, 31% of the population worked in the arts and entertainment industry, also the second-highest percentage of all metro areas in the country. Workers in these industries are less likely to have health insurance than workers in other industries. For many of Las Vegas residents, money is incredibly tight. Just 75.9% of the population indicated they had enough money for food at all times in the past 12 months, while 85.8% said they had enough for shelter. Both percentages were among the 10 lowest of all metro areas in the country.

9. Houston-Sugar Land- Baytown, Texas> Pct. insured: 73.4%> Pct. with a doctor: 68.0% (12th lowest)> Pct. with money for health care: 79.9% (61st lowest)> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 6.0% (96th lowest)

Just over 60% of Houston area residents had a dentist appointment within the previous 12 months, well below the 67.5% of all Americans. Worse, just 68% of residents surveyed had a personal doctor, one of the lowest percentages in the nation. With an unemployment rate of 6% as of the end of last year, area residents were less likely than most Americans to be unemployed. However, they also were less likely than most Americans to have graduated high school. A high school diploma helps land a job that provides health insurance, and just 81.1% of adults 25 and over in the area had one, versus 85.9% nationally.

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8. Stockton, Calif.> Pct. insured: 71.6%> Pct. with a doctor: 66.6% (8th lowest)> Pct. with money for health care: 81.1% (79th lowest)> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 14.5% (9th highest)

Just 66.6% of the Stockton area population had a personal doctor, the eighth-lowest percentage of all metro areas and significantly lower than the 78.2% across the country. Since most people receive health insurance through their employers, the area’s high unemployment rate was likely a significant cause to the high percentage of uninsured residents. The unemployment rate in Stockton was 14.5% as of the end of 2012, among the highest rates in the country.

7. Salinas, Calif.> Pct. insured: 71.4%> Pct. with a doctor: 58.4% (2nd lowest)> Pct. with money for health care: 77.8% (26th lowest)> Dec. 2012 unemployment: 13.1% (15th highest)

Only 58.4% of people in Salinas had a personal doctor, lower than any other metro area in the country except for McAllen, Texas. Many occupations that provide benefits like health insurance may be difficult to obtain for the area’s residents due to the population’s low educational attainment. Just 68.9% of adults at least 25 years old had a high school diploma, among the lowest percentages across the country. Fortunately, Salinas residents are taking care of themselves better than people in many other metro areas by exercising and eating healthy. Nearly 60% of residents exercised 30 minutes a day at least three times in the previous week, and 63.4% ate at least five servings of fruit and vegetables four days in the prior week — among the highest percentages in the country.

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