Poverty in Maine rose in ’10 Census
But fewer lack health insurance
AUGUSTA, Maine - New US census figures show more Mainers living in poverty, but fewer lacking health insurance.
Figures released yesterday and based on the 2010 Census show about 161,000 Mainers lived in poverty. The poverty rate of 12.5 percent was up from 11.4 percent in 2009. Maine’s 2010 poverty rate was still lower than that national rate of 15.1 percent.
Advocates for low-income people in Maine said the recession and high unemployment have driven the poverty rate up.
“With unemployment at 9.6 percent nationally and 7.7 percent in Maine, it is not surprising that more people have fallen below the poverty level and that family incomes are hardly growing,’’ said Christopher St. John, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
St. John said the trends should prod Congress to pass President Obama’s job-creation legislation.
The census data also show about 121,000 Maine residents, or 9.4 percent, lacked health insurance in 2010, a slight improvement from the 9.9 percent rate in 2009. The figures show a bigger improvement since 2000, when 10.4 percent of Mainers lacked coverage.
Maine’s improved figures reflect a shift of its insured population from private companies to public programs, said Joseph Bruno, chairman of the Dirigo Health board, which oversees a state program aimed at providing health insurance to those who lack it. The shift accounts for a rise in the number of people who receive MaineCare, the state’s Medicare program, he said.
“While it’s a good thing we have more people insured, when you look at it from a budgetary perspective it’s difficult to sustain,’’ Bruno said.
Maine’s health insurance coverage rate still puts it among the six states with the highest health insurance coverage rates, noted Ana Hicks of Maine Equal Justice Partners.
“This new census data reinforces the critical role that Medicaid plays in providing health insurance coverage to children and families,’’ Hicks said.
By comparison, 16.3 percent of Americans had no health insurance in 2010.