More children had health insurance coverage last year even as the number of adults without coverage remained flat in Oklahoma, according to Census Bureau estimates released Tuesday.
Meanwhile, poverty rates increased and median household income declined last year as Oklahoma continued to feel the effects of a recession that began in late 2007. The share of households on food stamps in the state rose to 12.1 percent last year, up from 10.9 percent in 2008.
In a bright spot, median home values rebounded across the state after falling in 2008. The median home value was $107,700 in 2009, the Census Bureau said. It was $105,100 in 2008.
The one-year estimates from the American Community Survey covered places with more than 65,000 people. In Oklahoma, that included 11 counties, six cities and all five congressional districts.
The percentage of adults without health insurance last year was unchanged at 18.7 percent. Still, Oklahoma's uninsured rate was the nation's seventh worst. Texas topped that ranking with 23.8 percent of its residents without health insurance in 2009.
An aggressive expansion of the state's Medicaid program for children likely contributed to the lower percentage of children without health coverage, state Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland said.
About 11.2 percent of state children had no health coverage in 2009. That compared with 12.4 percent in 2008, the survey said.
"The Healthcare Authority has worked really hard to improve the enrollment of eligible children in that program," Holland said. "We still have a long way to go. We are challenged by a not-healthy population and high rates of no insurance, so we're still limping along."
Holland said it remains to be seen if new federal health care laws will expand insurance and lower costs in Oklahoma. Many of the major changes won't take effect until 2014, although some reforms began last week.
"I continue to believe it will be a real mixed bag," Holland said. "I still don't feel any more optimistic about that. With Medicare and Medicaid, you can see the extent that the government is already involved in the delivery of health care services. One of the things that is concerning to our medical community is the possibility that Congress may reduce the amount of reimbursement to physicians."
Holland, a Democrat, faces Republican John Doak in November's general election.
More on food stamps
The percentage of Oklahomans in poverty increased to 16.2 percent last year, up from 15.7 percent in 2008, the bureau said.
David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said food stamp recipients in the state have increased each month for more than two years.
More than 417,000 Oklahomans were on food stamps in July 2008, according to the Department of Human Services. That figure rose to 598,000 people by July 2010.
In line with declines in other states, median household income fell to $41,664 in Oklahoma last year. That's compared with $42,624 in 2008. Only North Dakota posted an increase in median household income last year, the Census Bureau said.
"Obviously, with the effects of the recession and the significant increase in the number of unemployed Oklahomans, it's not a great surprise to see that median income has fallen," Blatt said.
Tuesday's American Community Survey estimates differed from numbers released by the Census Bureau earlier this month. The earlier estimates came from the Current Population Survey, which has a smaller sample size and a different way of surveying respondents. That can put the survey results at odds with each other.
For example, earlier Current Population Survey estimates appeared to show Oklahoma bucking the worst of the national recession in terms of poverty and health insurance coverage.
Policy analysts such as Blatt were skeptical of the earlier Current Population Survey estimates, which are useful for national snapshots but less so for state-level numbers.
The American Community Survey replaces the so-called "long form" from the once-a-decade population count. It asks detailed questions about economic, housing, social and demographic characteristics.
"Collectively, (American Community Survey) and census data are critical components of the nation's information infrastructure, providing data essential to our economy and our communities," Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a statement. "ACS data are required by numerous federal programs and for planning and decision-making at the state and federal level."