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Is health insurance coverage getting to everyone who needs it?

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Heather Robinson
Is health insurance coverage getting to everyone who needs it?
Is health insurance coverage getting to everyone who needs it?

Federal law these days mandates that all Americans have to be covered by some sort of health insurance, whether they receive it privately or through public exchanges, or via government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. However, it seems that some consumers - particularly those with lower incomes - still go without in a lot of cases, and those tend to be in concentrated areas.

While only 4 percent of people in Massachusetts (which has had its own health insurance mandate for more than a decade now) are still going without health insurance, it seems that some parts of major cities there are well below that level, according to a study from the Blue Cross Foundation of Massachusetts. A first-of-its-kind report shows that in some neighborhoods around the state, uninsurance rates reach north of 1 in 5 people. The three different "census tracts" - small areas of between 1,200 and 8,000 people - in question are in two parts of East Boston, and a neighborhood in New Bedford. There, 23.7 percent, 20 percent, and 22.1 percent, respectively, go without coverage.

The flip side of that problem
But it should be noted that this problem isn't exactly widespread, the report said. The state's uninsurance rate is actually the lowest in the nation. And while experts certainly have reason to be concerned about those three neighborhoods, it should also be pointed out that in 10 tracts around the state, the insurance rate is 100 percent. As one might imagine, these tend to be more affluent neighborhoods or towns.

Other factors come into play too, because when viewed at the county level, places like Cape Cod in the east and the Berkshires in the west tend to present the highest levels of uninsurance overall, the report said. Some areas of the central part of the state, between Worcester and Springfield, also tended to fall into this group more often than not.

These are certainly issues that need to be addressed, and what health insurance companies themselves can do may be at least somewhat limited. However, looking at the data and seeing where people go without such coverage may help to provide insight into why that is, and potentially even illustrate ways in which they may be able to bridge those gaps going forward, as the penalty for not having insurance increases.



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