Baton Rouge --- The detailed report of a survey conducted by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab has given the Department of Health more specific information about health care coverage and the uninsured population in Louisiana than state health officials have ever had.
In this survey, more than 10,000 Louisiana households were contacted between May 15 and October 1, 2003 to obtain information about their family’s health coverage status. The best estimates of the uninsured in Louisiana prior to this survey were based on work done by the U.S. Census Bureau with a sample of only 1,200 Louisiana households. This survey breaks information about the uninsured down to the regional level and in terms of uninsured children on a parish-by-parish basis.
“The data gained from this survey is the most far-reaching and specific we have ever had about the uninsured in our state,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “These results present a much clearer picture about where the uninsured live, what their lives are like and why they need better access to health care.”
Overall, more than one in five Louisiana adults between the ages of 19 and 65 has no health insurance. This population is the segment that has few options for affordable health coverage --- they are too old for Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program (LaCHIP), too young for Medicare and cannot afford private health insurance.
Most of the uninsured have a job and are more likely to lack insurance if they work in the hotel service and construction industries. Overall, the uninsured responding to the survey listed its high cost as their primary reason for not having health insurance.
Income per capita is another area that determines which regions of the state are likely to have the most uninsured children. Areas of the state that have higher per capita incomes, such as the Florida Parishes and the Metro Baton Rouge area, report lower rates of uninsured adults. Inversely, the Northeast portion of the state has the lowest per capita incomes and the highest population of uninsured adults.
“The survey not only lets us know where we are improving, it will show us where the most work remains to be done,” Dr. Cerise said. “This is particularly important for Northwest Louisiana, which has the highest rates of children who qualify for LaCHIP and traditional Medicaid who are not enrolled.”
State officials plan to use the data from this survey to target hard-to-reach eligible children for enrollment into LaCHIP, while at the same time make informed decisions about how to develop more programs aimed at reducing numbers of uninsured adults. One option now in the development stage is a waiver from the federal government that would allow LDH to use Medicaid funds to help employers and their employees better afford private health care coverage.
A second option is working to develop a comprehensive network of clinics that specifically treat the poor and uninsured, such as the two federally qualified health care centers that recently opened in Baton Rouge.
“We know that primary and preventive care is the best way to prevent chronic illness,” Dr. Cerise said. “However, for those without insurance, their only option is to wait until diseases progress to the point where they require expensive, emergency treatments that are not as effective. We must continue working to ensure better access to care for our uninsured citizens.”
To see the complete survey, go to the LDH homepage at: http://www.dhh.state.la.us/ and click on a link to the Louisiana Household Insurance Survey. To receive more information about the various Medicaid programs or to find out how people can qualify, visit the Medicaid Web site at: http://dhh.state.la.us/Medicaid or call toll free, 1-888-342-6207.