Inadequate access to health insurance can be a barrier to personal wellness. Health insurance coverage increases an individual’s likelihood of receiving higher-quality medical care and is important for preventive care. Nonelderly (persons 65 years and younger) are much more likely to lack health insurance than the elderly because most adults (65 years and older) have insurance through Medicare. When a community has a large percentage of nonelderly residents without health insurance, costs to society are often high, at times taking the form of costly emergency room visits and lost worker productivity.
According to data measured between 2012 and 2016, the area served by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana has a greater percent of nonelderly populations without health insurance than the national average, with the exception of St. Tammany Parish. Jefferson Parish and Plaquemines Parish had the highest rate of uninsured nonelderly at about 14 percent, followed closely by Washington Parish at just over 13 percent. Only 10 percent of nonelderly lack health insurance on average nationwide. Not surprisingly, individuals with lower incomes are less likely to have health insurance than those with higher incomes. However, some of the parishes in United Way’s service area have greater insurance coverage rates among low-income nonelderly than the national average.
Louisiana expanded Medicaid eligibility[i] July 1, 2016, and now individuals earning less than 138 percent of the poverty level may be eligible for Medicaid. Nationwide, about 17 percent of those at 138 percent or less of the poverty level are uninsured. In addition, nearly every parish in United Way’s service area has more uninsured high-income (above 400 percent of poverty) individuals than the national average. Nationally, less then 4 percent of nonelderly with income over 400 percent of poverty lack health insurance.
[i] Norris, L. (2017). Louisiana and the ACA’s medicaid expansion. Retrieved from https://www.healthinsurance.org/louisiana-medicaid/