State, county rank high on numbers of insuredStutsman County has the fourth highest percentage of under-65 residents with health insurance in all of North Dakota, according to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
Stutsman County has the fourth highest percentage of under-65 residents with health insurance in all of North Dakota, according to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report shows data tabulated by the Small Area Health Insurance Estimates program — which tracks American Community Survey estimates of the number of people with and without health insurance coverage across the entire country.
Nearly 90 percent of Stutsman County residents younger than 65 years old had health insurance coverage in 2010 — pretty much on par with 2006 results, which was the earliest data for such estimates that was available from the U.S. Census Bureau. The rate was 89.8 percent in 2010 as opposed to 89.6 percent in 2006.
While difficult to pinpoint exactly why Stutsman County’s rate ranks so high, North Dakota Insurance Commissioner and former Jamestown resident Adam Hamm said it could be due to employer coverage.
“The one thing that might jump out in terms of Stutsman County is the high percentage of citizens that would get their coverage through their employer,” he said. “When you think of the main employers in the Jamestown area, that might be going a long way in terms of explaining why Stutsman County’s rate is so high. That’s just my speculation, though, considering that there are some very large employers there in Jamestown.”
The three North Dakota counties with higher rates of insured residents than Stutsman were Mercer (91.6 percent), Burleigh (90.7 percent) and Foster (90 percent).
N.D. in top 10
Nationally, North Dakota ranked eighth in the country in 2010, with 88.6 percent — or roughly 495,000 people — covered by health insurance. The national average is 85.46 percent for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
That state percentage is up from 13th in the nation in 2006, when its percentage of residents with health insurance was more than one percentage point lower at 87.5 percent.
The results are not surprising to the state’s largest health insurer, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota’s Public Relations Manager and Spokesperson Najla Amundson.
“It is not surprising that North Dakota has a high rate of insured citizens, given that recent national research has shown the state has some of the nation’s lowest health care costs and insurance premiums,” Amundson said.
The company — which serves more than 390,000 members in North Dakota and nearly 11,000 in Stutsman County — is also aware of recent trends that have put a strain on many of the state’s residents.
“BCBSND recognizes, however, that the rise in health care costs in recent years has helped make insurance unaffordable for many North Dakotans. That’s why we continue to work with doctors and hospitals, policy makers and our members to find ways to create a sustainable, affordable health care system in North Dakota with the quality that we have all come to expect,” Amundson said.
While the data shows North Dakota is doing well, Hamm said there’s still room for improvement.
“When you consider that the Legislature’s estimates are even greater, that only 7 percent in the state are uninsured, it’s good news for North Dakota,” he said. “It shows the state is doing well, but we can always do better.”
Hamm pointed to a number of factors on why he believes North Dakota is among the top states in the nation in terms of insuring its residents.
“North Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, and with that, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s research shows that 54 percent of North Dakotans receive their health insurance through their employer as opposed to the national average of just 49 percent,” he said.
In addition, Hamm said that added competition to the health insurance market as well as the “Midwest mentality” are two other main contributing factors.
“New products and new companies are doing business in the state, offering multiple coverages at different price points. That’s given folks on the lower end of the income continuum the opportunity to afford some coverage so that they’re not uninsured,” he said. “Plus, you look at the fact that, generally, Midwestern folks are responsible people, and part of being responsible is having health insurance. I guess it is part of that Midwest mentality.”
On the bottom end of the rankings, the North Dakota counties with the lowest percentages of insured residents were Grant (74.4 percent), Logan (77.3 percent) and Sheridan (78.2 percent). However, Grant County — which ranked last statewide in both 2010 and 2006 — was actually up 2.5 percentage points from the 71.9 percent in 2006.
For more information and to view the full report, visit www.census.gov/did/www/sahie/data/index.html.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com