(Salt Lake City, UT) – New data from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) show 8.8 percent of Utahns (265,100 residents) did not have health insurance during 2015. The figure represents the lowest uninsured rate Utah has experienced in more than a decade.
The estimate comes from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based cell and landline telephone survey that measures key public health indicators, including health care coverage.
“There are likely several factors that have lead Utah to this point,” said UDOH Executive Director Dr. Joseph Miner. “The state’s healthy economy and low unemployment rate certainly play a role. Changes in health insurance that allowed more young adults to remain on their parents’ health plan and that offered health insurance subsidies to some lower-income families appear to be having a positive effect on the uninsured rate as well.”
The 2015 data show a continued decrease in the number of uninsured Utahns between the ages of 19-26. In 2011, 23.6 percent of these residents did not have insurance, but last year that number had decreased to just 12 percent.
The number of uninsured Utahns who fit into the population targeted for Medicaid expansion, those between the ages of 19-64 who earn between 0-138 percent of the federal poverty level, has also decreased over the past several years. In 2011, 43 percent of these residents were uninsured, compared to 30 percent in 2015. Despite the improvement, this population’s uninsured rate is still much higher than other populations measured in the survey.
Access to health care is an important contributor to an individual’s overall health, but other factors, such as utilizing preventive and primary care and affordability are important as well.
“Utahns need to take the simple, yet critical, steps that can contribute greatly to their health,” said Dr. Miner. “Simply enrolling in a health care plan will not keep you healthy. But utilizing services like immunizations, cancer screenings, and annual physical exams will go a long way in preventing sickness and disease.”
BRFSS health insurance data are based on a sample of approximately 5,000 Utah residents who were questioned about their insurance status. Several other surveys collect similar data, and rates may vary based on survey methodology and targeted populations.
Additional data on the estimated number of uninsured Utahns can be at https://ibis.health.utah.gov/pdf/opha/publication/ins/2015_InsuranceAnalysis.pdf.
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