A new dataset from the U.S. Census Bureau sheds light on how the pandemic has affected health insurance, housing, and business travel across the country, and some of the changes have been particularly pronounced in the Mountain West region.
The American Community Survey found that the number of people working from home tripled between 2019 and 2021. Colorado had one of the highest percentages of home workers – around 24%.
Health insurance coverage has also changed considerably in the region. Most Mountain West states have higher than average rates of people without insurance. But these percentages generally abandoned during the pandemic, including in Idaho and Utah. Idaho’s uninsured rate fell about 2 percentage points, one of the largest declines in the country.
Sharon Stern of the US Census Bureau said in a recent webinar that federal COVID-19 policies that kept more people on Medicaid were a big reason for this. Private medical coverage has declined in 18 states over the past two years, including Colorado, Utah, Idaho, New Mexico and Nevada.
“The increase in the percentage of people covered by any type of health insurance was driven by a change in public coverage,” Stern said.
Nevada and Wyoming still have an uninsured population of over 11%, the highest in the region. The Cowboy State is the only state in the Mountain West that has not yet expanded Medicaid.
The results of the American Community Survey also highlight the effects of the pandemic on housing. Rent prices rose and vacancy rates fell in all states in the region. Nationally, more than half of Americans report spending more than 30% of their income on rent, a key indicator of housing insecurity.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana , KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations throughout the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the public broadcasting company.