Bronx and Brooklyn Health Care at the Starting Line

by Jennifer Brookland

As hard-fought health insurance legislation comes across President Obama’s desk, the economic problems of the Bronx are apparent in the places people get their insurance. One in five people in the Bronx were on Medicaid as of 2008, the highest percentage of all the boroughs, according to city data. About 180,000 people were enrolled in the program, which provides health care to those who can’t afford to pay their medical bills. New York State overall had a higher percentage of Medicaid recipients- about 20 percent- compared to the nationwide level of 15 percent. About 43 percent of Bronx residents got their insurance privately through their employers or themselves- well below the state average. More than half the population of New York State has private insurance. About one out of six people in the Bronx were insured through Medicare, the federally administered health care program for people over the age of 65. With about 17 percent of people in the Bronx without any health insurance, 158,000 residents were left uninsured in 2008, according to the latest available data.

With 11 hospitals and several clinics, health care is big business in the Bronx. But unemployment, poverty, street crime and low education makes the Bronx the unhealthiest borough in New York City, according to a health study released last month by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Brooklyn’s health care situation was similar to the Bronx’s. A website called “Brokelyn” joked about scoring antibiotics on Craigslist and trolling the black market for insulin. Under 45 percent of insurance came from the private sector and about 16 percent of residents received Medicare as of 2008. Brooklyn had the second highest percentage of residents in the city who received Medicaid because their income level was too low for them to buy other insurance. However, with one in six Brooklynites, or 277,000 people uninsured, the borough actually has a lower rate than the national average of 17.4 percent of people with no coverage.

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