County supes: Health care a ‘failure’

Despite rising incomes, 18.5 percent of Californians lack health insurance — a fact San Mateo County officials say underscores their vision for universal health care on the Peninsula.

The startling figure, included in a U.S. Census Bureau report released Tuesday, was taken using a three-year average from 2004 to 2006. California’s percentage of uninsured residents remains well above the national rate of 15.8 percent.

While the census report did not include the number of uninsured in San Mateo County, the county’s recently released Blue Ribbon Task Force on Adult Health Care coverage estimated there are 40,000 to 60,000 uninsured adults on the Peninsula.

San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill, who is leading the charge for affordable local health care coverage along with Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, called the census data “an indication of the failure of our health care system.”

“It can’t go on this way, so local government needs to take the lead,” Hill said.

Tissier said the census data provides further reason for the state and federal government to address the rising numbers of uninsured, but she isn’t holding her breath waiting for that to happen.

“We’re going to continue on our county level to put together a model for others to emulate,” she said.

Tuesday’s census data also revealed that while income levels have risen and poverty rates have declined nationally, the numbers have remained static in San Mateo County.

In 2006, the median household income for San Mateo County was $77,914 — about $924 more than the previous year when adjusted for inflation, said Chuck Nelson, assistant division chief for the census bureau’s housing and economics statistics division. In 2006, 5.2 percent of San Mateo County families lived in poverty — up 0.5 percent from the previous year.

“San Mateo is quite a bit less poor than either the state or the country and — statistically speaking, stable in family poverty rates,” Nelson said.

San Mateo’s overall poverty level in 2006 was 7.4 percent. Nationally, the median household income was $48,200 and the overall poverty level was 13.3 percent. In California, the median household income was $56,645 and the family poverty level was 13.1 percent, Nelson said.

County’s income by the numbers

7.4%: overall poverty level

5.2%: families below the poverty level

10.2%: children below the poverty level

7.5%: seniors 65 and older below the poverty level

$77,914: county median household income in 2006

$56,645: state median household income in 2006

$48,200: U.S. median household income in 2006

– Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 report

tbarak@examiner.com

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