Uninsureds climb to record high in Nebraska

UNMC report finds at least 217,000 Nebraskans are uninsured - more than 65 percent increase since 2000

A University of Nebraska Medical Center study has found that the number of uninsured people under the age of 65 in Nebraska increased by 67.4 percent between 2000 and 2010. The study determined that the number of uninsureds has increased from 8.9 percent (156,300 people) in 2000 to 14.9 percent (217,100 people) in 2010.

“This might seem somewhat alarming,” said Jim Stimpson, Ph.D., associate professor in the Center for Health Policy in the UNMC College of Public Health and co-author of the report. “However, the uninsured numbers in Nebraska are in line with what is happening in other Midwest states.”

In the Midwest region, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin, the uninsured rate in the past decade climbed from 10.5 percent to 14.8 percent, Dr. Stimpson said.

Additional key findings of the study included:

  • 16 Nebraska counties had a high uninsurance rate (21 percent–31 percent) in 2009.
  • In Nebraska, the number of individuals with employer-based insurance decreased by approximately 9.3 percent between 2000 and 2010, and the number of individuals who purchased insurance directly increased by approximately 16 percent.
  • Three insurance carriers make up 91 percent of the private insurance market in 2011.

Kelly Shaw-Sutherland, health data analyst in the UNMC College of Public Health, was the other co-author of the report. In analyzing the uninsureds in Nebraska, Shaw-Sutherland said several key elements come to the surface:

  • A majority of the uninsured population is above the poverty threshold;
  • One-third work less than full-time year-round; and
  • 40,000 are not U.S. citizens.

Shaw-Sutherland said uninsurance rates are high in Nebraska’s rural-frontier counties, where a disproportionate share of the population is living in poverty, un/under-employed, and less healthy. She said Nebraska is doing better than its peers in the Midwest on most measures of health insurance, possibly due in part to low unemployment levels and to state efforts to expand insurance coverage.

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act of 2010, Dr. Stimpson said Nebraska will need to determine if it wants to expand Medicaid eligibility for individuals younger than 65 years.

“The persistently high uninsurance rate points out the need for additional policies that would allow more people to participate in the health insurance market,” said Dr. Stimpson, who noted that the establishment of a health insurance exchange could create a larger, more robust risk pool from which insurance may be purchased and potentially drive down costs while increasing access.

For more information on the study, contact Dr. Stimpson at 402-552-7254, james.stimpson@unmc.edu.

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Tom O'Connor
UNMC Public Relations
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