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Census snapshot shows bleak picture for many Oklahomans amid recession

Census: Incomes fell and food stamps increased last year in Oklahoma, but federal health insurance programs covered more children.
BY PAUL MONIES Modified: September 29, 2010 at 7:01 am •  Published: September 29, 2010

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."

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