New Census data shows Iowa ranks high among the states in the number of residents who are covered by a health insurance plan, but Iowa Policy Project researcher Christine Ralston says Iowans are losing their coverage at a faster rate than the national average.

In 2008, 9.4 percent of Iowans were uninsured. That is up significantly from the beginning of the decade when about 7.4 percent of Iowans were uninsured.

“Over that time period in Iowa uninsurance grew by 19 percent. Nationally the number of uninsured increased by 10 percent,” Ralston says. “So we’re seeing a larger increase in the rate of uninsurance here in the state.”

According to the Census data, one out of every 11 Iowans did not have health insurance last year. The U.S. Census report does not indicate whether those uninsured Iowans lost coverage that had been provided by their employers, but the data nationally shows that for the eighth straight year the number of American businesses providing health care benefits to their employees have declined.

“It’s important to consider that these are 2008 numbers, so this only catches the front end of the recession,” Ralston says. “So next year’s numbers are likely to look quite a bit worse when we see more job loss which will lead to the loss of more employer-sponsored insurance.”

The surrounding states of Nebraska and Missouri saw more dramatic increases in the number of uninsured. Nebraska saw a 50 percent increase in the number of uninsured residents in 2008 compared to 2000, while the number of uninsured Missourians grew by about a third during that time period. According to the Census Bureau, about 279,000 Iowans did not have health insurance coverage in 2008.