Cen­sus: Ga. poverty rate falls but still above U.S. av­er­age

De­spite gains, fewer peo­ple in state had health in­surance in ’18.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FRONT PAGE - By He­lena Oliviero ho­[email protected] and Ariel Hart [email protected]

Ge­or­gia’s poverty rate fell but the num­ber of res­i­dents with­out health in­surance rose, ac­cord­ing to a new U.S. Cen­sus re­port Tues­day.

The lat­est num­bers un­der­scored the ben­e­fits of a decade­long eco­nomic ex­pan­sion and the dif­fi­cul­ties many Ge­or­gians and Amer­i­cans still face in find­ing af­ford­able health care. Ge­or­gians liv­ing in poverty d eclined by 2.8 per­cent­age points be­tween 2015-2016 and 2017-2018. Na­tion­ally, the dip was 1.1 per­cent­age points.

Only four states — Ari­zona, Delaware, South Dakota and Ten­nessee — re­ported big­ger de­clines. Ken­tucky also saw a de­crease of 2.8 per­cent­age points, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Cen­sus data.

Still, poverty re­mains a big­ger prob­lem in Ge­or­gia than na­tion­ally. Some 14.7% of the state’s pop­u­la­tion is im­pov­er­ished, com­pared with 12.3% across the U.S., based on a three-year av­er­age be­tween 2016 and 2018.

And even as the econ­omy added jobs, more peo­ple in Ge­or­gia and the U.S. went with­out health in­surance last year. The South saw a dra­matic in­crease in unin­sured chil­dren, the only re­gion to see such a trend.

The rate of unin­sured in the U.S. rose from 7.9% to 8.5% last year — the first in­crease na­tion­ally since 2009, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­sus re­port.

In Ge­or­gia, the rate rose to 13.7%, mean­ing an ad­di­tional 36,000 peo­ple lost or went with­out health in­surance in 2018.

Over­all, more than 1.4 mil­lion Ge­or­gians went with­out health in­surance last year. Ge­or­gia has the na­tion’s third-high­est rate of unin­sur­ance, be­hind only Texas and Ok­la­homa.

The new re­port was part of a se­ries the Cen­sus Bureau re­leases an­nu­ally on the state of the econ­omy. The gov­ern­ment also re­ported Tues­day the U.S. poverty rate fell last year to 11.8%, its low­est level since 2001.

Ex­perts said the rea­son for Ge­or­gia’s de­cline in the poverty rate is sim­ple: jobs.

The state has reeled in a se­ries of large de­vel­op­ment projects, in­clud­ing a 1,000-job Ama­zon dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter, while con­tin­u­ing to see ex­pan­sion among its home-grown com­pa­nies. That helped Ge­or­gia’s job growth out­pace the na­tion be­tween 2016 and 2018, said Jef­frey M. Humphreys, di­rec­tor of the Selig Cen­ter for Eco­nomic Growth at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia’s Terry Col­lege of Busi­ness.

Ge­or­gia has long ranked high in sur­veys among site se­lec­tion and de­vel­op­ment ob­servers for be­ing low in busi­ness taxes and gen­er­ous in busi­ness in­cen­tives. Its de­mo­graph­ics also fuel growth, with an ex­pand­ing pop­u­la­tion of young peo­ple.

But the state is re­ally just mak­ing up ground it lost dur­ing the Great Re­ces­sion, re­turn­ing to poverty lev­els of about 10 years ago, said David Sjo­quist, pro­fes­sor of economics at Ge­or­gia State Univer­sity. Ge­or­gia’s poverty rate had climbed to 19.2% in 2012, the high­est in decades, he said.

The de­cline in the num­ber of peo­ple with health in­surance, mean­while, has the at­ten­tion of Ge­or­gia’s high­est elected of­fi­cials. Re­search com­mis­sioned by the of­fice of Gov. Brian Kemp shows the in­surance gap is ac­com­pa­nied by some se­ri­ous health prob­lems in the state.

Kemp is plan­ning to sub­mit a health care “waiver” re­quest to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, which could end up get­ting more health cov­er­age for more peo­ple.

His of­fice has not re­leased de­tails about what that re­quest will in­clude.

The Ge­or­gia trend mir­rors what’s hap­pen­ing in some other parts of the coun­try. States that didn’t ex­pand the gov­ern­ment health in­surance pro­gram Med­i­caid to all their poor had unin­sured rates about dou­ble those of states that did ex­pand Med­i­caid.

Work­ing-age adults in Ge­or­gia who make less than the poverty level usu­ally do not qual­ify for Med­i­caid or Oba­macare cov­er­age, also known as the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Na­tion­ally, the num­bers of peo­ple with pri­vate in­surance stayed steady.

The ex­pla­na­tion for the na­tional in­crease in unin­sured ap­peared to be fewer peo­ple on Med­i­caid and Medi­care. Medi­care is the gov­ern­ment health in­surance pro­gram for the el­derly.

The rise in the unin­sured in­cluded an in­crease of more than 400,000 chil­dren, or 0.6% of all U.S. chil­dren.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.