Health Insurance Coverage

How are we doing?

Percent of Residents with Health Insurance Coverage (2015)

Tucson ranked fourth out of the 12 western metropolitan areas in health insurance coverage, with 86.7% of the population having health insurance in 2015. Only Colorado Springs, Portland and Denver had higher percentages of residents with health insurance, at 89.1%, 88.7%, and 87.7%, respectively. El Paso, at 74.7%, was at the lower end of the range. In fact, three of the four lowest ranking metropolitan areas were in Texas, which had the lowest percentage of the 10 western states. Insurance falls into two categories, public or private, and those in Tucson that do have insurance are less likely than the U.S. or Arizona to have private insurance.

Why is it important?   

Health insurance coverage improves access and quality of medical care to individuals and contributes to the overall health of the community. Those without insurance typically delay treatment and are more likely to seek care through emergency rooms or public hospitals, which increases the financial burden for states. Being uninsured or underinsured can be a great financial hardship for individuals who find themselves with a medical emergency or chronic condition that requires extensive medical support.

How do we compare?

In 2015, both the Tucson metropolitan area, at 89.9%, and the state of Arizona (88.9%) had fewer insured children than the nation as a whole (93.5%). The Tucson area tied the U.S for the percentage of the working-age population (18-64) with insurance at 81.9%. Medicare insures most individuals over the age of 65, resulting in high percentages of coverage.

The white non-Hispanic population was most likely to have health insurance coverage in 2015. This was true for Tucson, (91.9%), as well as Arizona (90.5%), and the U.S. (91.0%).  The American Indian population ranked lowest among races in Tucson, with 73.3% insured, and near the bottom for Arizona at 73.9%, and the U.S. at 75.0%. Those reporting their race as ‘other’ or indicating Hispanic ethnicity followed closely. One caveat for this was that the Census classified those whose only health coverage was Indian Health Service as “uninsured”.

The Tucson MSA had a smaller percentage of individuals with private health insurance, 53.6%, in 2015 than either Arizona, at 55.9%, or the U.S., at 61.0%. Those indicating they were insured fell into three categories: public, private, or a mixture of private and public insurance. Those who have health insurance coverage through their employer or union, purchase insurance directly, or have TRICARE plans or other military health plans are considered privately insured. Those insured through Medicare, Medicaid, Veteran’s Administration (VA), or any kind of government-assistance plan are considered publicly insured.  Nearly 20% of the population in Tucson, Arizona, and the U.S. have both private and public insurance. This includes individuals that have both Medicare and supplemental private insurance, for example.

How is it measured?

Health insurance coverage estimates cover the civilian non-institutionalized population, which excludes active-duty military personnel, as well as the population living in correctional facilities and nursing homes.  These data are from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), which is a rolling survey that annually produces one-year and five-year estimates on demographic, social, housing, and economic measures.