On Health Care Reform, Divisive or Not: In my town health care to minorities & the poor will improve
Federal health care reform will mean huge changes across the country, but demographics in Pierce County indicate that changes here might be even more dramatic than in many other places.
Pierce County tends to be poorer and more racially diverse than most Washington counties, and for decades public health officials have struggled, with limited success, to expand health care access to minorities and the poor.
Once insurance reform kicks in, local health officials say, Pierce County could begin to see significant changes in disease and mortality statistics.
“If they can get insurance and work with medical providers, we should see overall health improvement and a decrease in the death rate,” said Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “More people will know their health status and be able to take appropriate action to improve their health.”
According to the Health Department, about 15 percent of Pierce County adults – about 89,000 people – currently are without health insurance. Statewide, estimates of the uninsured range from 10 percent to 12 percent.
Pierce County numbers are much higher for certain racial groups. According to the Health Department, 25 percent of blacks in the county and 37 percent of Hispanics were uninsured in 2008. For whites, the rate of uninsured is just under 11 percent.