A 2012 state survey shows that the number of Vermonters without health insurance is dropping.
Since Vermont carried out its first Vermont Household Health Insurance Survey in 2000, the percentage of uninsured Vermonters has declined from 8.4 percent (51,390 people) to 6.8 percent (42,760 people) of the state’s population.
This trend diverges from federal figures, which show that the national uninsured rate has increased over a similar 12-year aggregate. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the percentage of uninsured citizens in the U.S. climbed from 13.6 percent of the population in 1999 to 15.7 percent in 2011.
Meanwhile, the number of Vermonters enrolled in private health insurance plans — minus the state-subsidized Catamount program — decreased, from 60.1 percent of the state population in 2000 to 56.8 percent in 2012. But the level of Medicaid, Medicare and military beneficiaries rose by around 1.5 percent.
Sarah Lindberg, the data manager for the Department of Financial Regulation, oversaw the survey, which was contracted to Market Decisions of Portland, Maine. This year’s survey drew from 10,982 Vermont residents and was weighted by age and regional population.
It is the fifth time the state has carried out this phone survey, and financial regulators are planning to complete a comprehensive report of the findings at the end of March. The state has also conducted this survey in 2005, 2008 and 2009.
“We’re doing a good job of insuring people, particularly children and elderly adults,” Lindberg said about the study’s findings. “I think that overall people are pretty satisfied with the level of care they’re getting but are upset with the cost.”
According to Lindberg, this survey is particularly pertinent in a rural state like Vermont because national surveys aren’t as accurate in states with smaller populations.
“It’s our best way to determine how many uninsured Vermonters there are,” she said.
Of those residents who are uninsured, more than 80 percent cite the cost of health insurance as one of the reasons why they forgo coverage, and 50 percent cite cost as the sole reason. Aside from price, the most common reasons to forgo health insurance are related to employment issues.
The study also shows that Vermonters who lack health insurance tend to be working, younger, poorer, male, unmarried and without a college degree.
While the survey shows that 75 percent of the state’s uninsured are working, by contrast it shows that 65 percent of the insured are employed. That means that there is a greater ratio of Vermonters who are uninsured and working than there are insured and working.
According to the study, the median age for uninsured Vermonters is 32, compared to 42 for the insured. The median annual income for the uninsured is 201 percent of the federal poverty line ($22,452), compared to 317 percent of the poverty line ($35,409) for the insured.
The percentage of uninsured Vermonters who are males is 64 percent; of the insured population, 48 percent are males.
While 43 percent of the uninsured don’t have a degree above a high school diploma, 64 percent of the insured do. And while 68 percent of the uninsured are not married, 63 percent of the insured are.
The survey split the state into four regions: the greater Burlington area, the Southeast, the Southwest and the Northeast.
The Burlington area — Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties — and the Southeast region of the state — Orange, Washington, Windham and Windsor counties — had the lowest uninsured rates in the state at 6 percent of the regional population.
The Southeast region — Addison, Bennington and Rutland counties — had an uninsured rate of 7 percent.
The Northeast — Caledonia, Essex, Lamoille and Orleans counties — had the highest rate of uninsured residents in the state, accounting for 10 percent of the population.