Uninsured in S.C.

Charleston County: 57,179 (19 percent)

Berkeley County: 33,404 (20.8 percent)

Dorchester County: 21,045 (17.1 percent)

South Carolina: 755,487 (19.4 percent)

The number of South Carolinians without health insurance has improved in recent years, a new U.S. Census report shows.

State rankings

The following states have the highest rates of uninsured residents in the U.S.

1. Texas: 25.7 percent

2. Florida: 24.8 percent

3. Nevada: 23.8 percent

4. New Mexico: 23 percent

5. Oklahoma: 21.8 percent

6. (tie) Alaska and Georgia: 21.7 percent

8. Montana: 21.6 percent

9. Mississippi: 20.6 percent

10. California: 20.2 percent

11. (tie) Louisiana and Arkansas: 20.1 percent

13. Arizona: 19.6 percent

14. South Carolina: 19.4 percent

15. Idaho: 18.9 percent

U.S. Census

In 2010, more than 20 percent of the state had no health insurance, equal to 785,961 residents. In 2011, the most recent year data is available, that percentage dropped to 19.4 percent of the state’s population or 755,487 residents.

“As the economy got worse, the rate of uninsured increased,” said S.C. Medicaid Director Tony Keck. “The economy is getting better. Especially in South Carolina, it’s getting better faster than in other areas of the country.”

Still, South Carolina ranks among the top 15 states with the highest rates of uninsurance in the U.S. And the number of uninsured in 2011 in South Carolina was higher than it was in 2007, when only 694,350 residents, or 18.2 percent of the state’s population, had no health insurance.

The U.S. Census 2011 Small Area Health Insurance Estimates, published Thursday, includes state and county-level data from across the country.

The report also shows that an estimated 364,026 uninsured South Carolinians would qualify for free health insurance if the state government accepted federal money to expand the Medicaid program.

About 1.1 million adults and children are already enrolled in Medicaid in South Carolina.

The federal government will help states pay to expand the program to any resident earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $15,900 a year for a single adult. The expansion, established by the Affordable Care Act, is only optional, though, and South Carolina leaders have decided to decline the money.

“Hospitals, the Medicaid agency, clinics, we’re doing wonderful work in South Carolina to improve health. Unfortunately, that still is not a coverage solution,” said Rozalynn Goodwin, the director of policy research for the S.C. Hospital Association, a group that supports expanding Medicaid.

The Affordable Care Act requires residents without insurance to sign up for a policy next year or pay a fine. The new Census data shows most residents without health insurance in South Carolina will qualify for financial assistance to help pay for the coverage because of their income level.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.