Uninsured rates vary widely

August 29, 2012

A relatively high proportion of people lack health insurance in Prince George’s County, Manassas and Manassas Park, while the District and Loudoun County have the lowest rates of uninsured residents in the region, new government statistics show.

With 17 percent of its residents without health insurance, Prince George’s County has the highest uninsured rate in Maryland. In the city of Baltimore, in contrast, fewer than 16 percent of residents are uninsured. The statewide average is less than 13 percent.

The cities of Manassas and Manassas Park have even higher uninsured rates, with more than one in five residents having no health insurance. The only places in Virginia that have comparable rates are in sparsely populated counties, particularly in the southern and southwestern parts of the state. The statewide average is almost 15 percent uninsured.

Both the District and Loudoun County stand out for their low uninsured rates in data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The uninsured make up about 9 percent of residents of Loudoun County, which regularly shows up among the nation’s most affluent counties, as measured by household income. Just 3 percent of residents live in poverty. More than half of the adults in Loudoun have college degrees, and many work for companies that provide health insurance as a benefit.

The District was able to match Loudoun County’s rate, even though it is much poorer, with a median household income half that of Loudoun’s and one in five residents living in poverty. That’s because the District has the most comprehensive and generous health coverage in the region.

About 240,000 residents — four of 10 people living in the city — are covered by Medicaid or the city’s Healthcare Alliance. The coverage is available to anyone with income up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $38,180 for a family of three, for example.

Wayne Turnage, director of the city Department of Health Care Finance, said the high eligibility levels explain why so many D.C. residents are insured. And the city hopes to expand coverage with the creation of health insurance exchanges that offer competitively priced policies.

“It puts us that much closer to full coverage,” Turnage said.

Many of the region’s more affluent suburbs have a much higher proportion of residents with no insurance.

In Fairfax and Montgomery counties, about 13 percent of residents are uninsured. The uninsured rate is 12 percent in Arlington County and 15 percent in Alexandria. Prince William County has one of the area’s higher uninsured rates, almost 16 percent.

Carol Morello is the diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, covering the State Department.
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