Many live without health coverage in Reading, Allentown

    A new survey from the U.S. Census estimates the number of uninsured people in Pennsylvania’s largest cities. Two mid-size cities in southeast Pennsylvania have the state’s highest concentration of people without health insurance.

    Two mid-size cities in southeast Pennsylvania have the state’s highest concentration of people without health insurance. WHYY reports on a new survey from the U.S. Census, which for the first time estimates the number of uninsured people in Pennsylvania’s largest cities.

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    Slightly more than 17 percent of residents in both Reading and Allentown have no health coverage. The estimate is 14.1 percent in Philadelphia. Berry Friesen is spokesman for the Pennsylvania Health Access Network. He says the proportion of people who have private health insurance is much lower in Allentown and Reading, compared to Philadelphia.

    Friesen: What we know about these cities — Reading and Allentown, and to some extent Philadelphia — is that they’ve been losing jobs, especially industrial jobs, especially union jobs that typically provide a health insurance plan that includes family benefits.

    Most people who have private health insurance get it through work, but in recent years a growing number of employers across the state have dropped health benefits.

    Among Pennsylvania’s largest cities, Philadelphia has the most people without health coverage, but the highest concentration of uninsured people live in Reading and Allentown.

    Friesen thinks the percentage of people who get their health insurance through work is much lower in Reading and Allentown versus Philadelphia.

    Friesen: Our whole system is built on employer-provided health insurance, and when you have very few workers covered with a family plan that covers their children as well as themselves then you’ve got a big gap to fill and the public plans aren’t filling it completely.

    The Census ranking includes only cities with more than 65,000 people.

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