Geography makes difference in health coverage

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Where someone lives makes a difference in whether or not that person has health insurance.

Census data released this week shows a vast geographic inequality in the uninsured that has been shaped by an area's state laws, population makeup and jobs. Residents in pockets of the Northeast and upper Midwest are many times more likely to have health insurance than residents of vast swaths of the Southwest.

Of the nation's 435 congressional districts, Texas districts topped the list with the highest percentage of uninsured residents. The lowest percentage of the uninsured were in congressional districts in Massachusetts, which in 2006 legislated near-universal health insurance.

The extremes range from Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Green's congressional district in Houston, where 40.1% of the population is uninsured, to Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern's district around Worcester, Mass., where only 3.4% of the population has no coverage.

McGovern's district is helped by having the University of Massachusetts Medical School and UMass Memorial Medical Center as 2 of the area's largest employers.

Green attributed the large numbers of uninsured in his inner-city district to low-paying jobs where employers don't provide insurance, and even if they do, employees often can't afford the high co-payments.