The Times West Virginian

In Today's TWV

October 8, 2006

‘I had no way to buy medicine’

Many without health insurance are low-income people who work

(Continued)

FAIRMONT —

That’s just slightly lower than Mingo and Pocahontas counties, at 29.9 percent and 29.6 percent, respectively.

The median percentage happens to be in Monongalia County, with 19.3 percent of residents without health insurance. Marion County is a few percentage points ahead of that at 22.8 percent, and Harrison County is below the median at 18.2 percent.

Those numbers were gathered five years ago, said Sally Richardson, executive director of the WVU Institute for Health Policy Research, and all indications — statistical and anecdotal — show that the situation is not improving.

Preliminary data gathered by the institute in 2003 as well as statistics from 2005 from different sources show that the number of adults too young to qualify for Medicare is going up.

“The big problem is what you call the adults who are not elderly,” Richardson said. “There, we don’t do nearly as well. In the first survey, about 20 percent of West Virginians from age 19 to 64 didn’t have health-care insurance. That grew from 2001 to 2003, to 22 percent, and the numbers went from 220,000 to 238,000.”

A newer report, released in 2006 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J., (www.rwjf.org), cites West Virginia as the top state where uninsured adults are mostly likely to go without health care, at 57 percent. Oregon and Kentucky follow at 56 percent and 54 percent respectively, with the lowest percentage being in North Dakota, at 24 percent.

“There are people who fall into several different categories,” said Health Right’s Jones. “There are people who are working two or three part-time jobs to make ends meet, and because they are working part-time and because of the nature of the work, they are not offered health insurance.”

Then there are people who are employed at places that offer health insurance, but because the premiums are so high, they cannot afford it. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (www.kff.org), premiums for family coverage have increased by 87 percent since the year 2000.

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