1 in 5 Amelians lacks health insurance

September 24, 2013

Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared in the Sept. 19 edition of the Amelia Bulletin Monitor.

By Jeannette Porter

Amelia County has one of the highest proportions among Virginia localities of residents without health insurance, according to data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Almost 20 percent of Amelians under 65 had no health insurance in 2011, the data showed. Only 11 other Virginia localities had a higher percentage. The state average was 14 percent.

Amelia’s northwestern neighbor, Cumberland County, ranked ninth highest, with just over 20 percent of its residents uninsured. Every other county surrounding Amelia had a lower percentage of people under 65 without health insurance:

  • Chesterfield County – 13 percent
  • Powhatan County – 14 percent
  • Dinwiddie County – 15 percent
  • Prince Edward County – 17 percent
  • Nottoway County – 19 percent

Statewide, the locality with the lowest percentage of uninsured residents was the city of Falls Church in Northern Virginia; its rate was under 8 percent. The state’s highest percentage of uninsured residents was found in Highland County on the border with West Virginia, at 25 percent. The Census Bureau provided data on all 134 of Virginia’s counties and independent cities.

The bureau collects and releases the data each year under its annual Small Area Health Insurance Estimates program. The statistics are based on a survey and are subject to a margin of error.

The data underscore the challenges the country faces as the federal Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform legislation, takes effect.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court found the “Obamacare” law, as critics call it, to be constitutional. However, the court’s ruling allowed states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion that was intended to shrink the percentages of uninsured people.

According to an Associated Press story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in July, approximately “two out of three uninsured low-income people who would qualify for subsidized coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law may be out of luck next year because their states have not expanded Medicaid.” Virginia is among these states.

An Aug. 20 Times-Dispatch story reported that Gov. Bob McDonnell opposes Medicaid expansion “without significant reforms to control costs to the state in future years.”

The decision in Virginia is up to the state’s Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, established by the 2013 General Assembly. The commission met Aug. 19 and is to meet again Oct. 21, with a public hearing to be scheduled before the October meeting.

Online public comment is being accepted at the commission’s site at http://mirc.virginia.gov/mircapp/commentform.aspx.

Here is an extract of the data on which this story was based:

More on this story: A map of uninsured Virginians

This article is a “Data Drop brief” — a quick-hit posting based on analysis by students in MASC 644 Computer-Assisted Reporting. This exercise involved downloading data from a government website, manipulating the data in Excel, doing calculations, and then sorting and filtering the data.