Number of Vermonters getting health insurance at work declines

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(Host) According to a new state survey, the number of Vermonters who get health insurance at work has declined in the past 6 years.

The survey also indicates that half of the state’s uninsured population qualify for Medicaid coverage but don’t get it because they mistakenly believe that they aren’t eligible.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The survey results indicate that roughly sixty-one-thousand Vermonters are uninsured. Most are adults. Seven-thousand are children.

This means that roughly 13% of adults under 65 don’t have insurance. Among this group the largest category of uninsured is between 18 and 34.

Eighty percent of uninsured Vermonters work full time and a majority earn a salary that’s less than $20,000 a year for a single person and $40,000 for a family for four.

Senate Health and Welfare chairman Jim Leddy says it’s clear that many uninsured Vermonters can’t afford to buy coverage:

(Leddy) “They’re working many times for companies that either don’t provide health insurance or they’re working for those that do. But they sometimes are making a choice not to take it. More and more we’re finding that there isn’t a real choice. They simply can’t afford to take it. They can’t afford to take the premiums. They can’t afford the increased deductibles and co-pays. So there are a number of factors there. But I think the bottom line is most folks without insurance are working.”

(Kinzel) The survey also shows that 50% of all uninsured adults in Vermont qualify for Medicaid but don’t sign up because they don’t think they’re eligible.

Banking and Insurance commissioner John Crowley says greater outreach efforts are needed even though he acknowledges that this approach will expand the state’s Medicaid budget.

(Crowley) “To be frank about it, if all 25,000 or so went out and signed up for Medicaid and utilized it, it certainly would present a budget challenge. But we think it’s good that those people have the insurance so they can utilize it for preventative measures, for screening measures that I due course will lead to healthier lives and less chronic care problems later in life which as we know are very expensive.”

(Kinzel) Senator Leddy says the survey also shows that the governor’s plan to provide subsidies to uninsured Vermonters who decline to take coverage at work will have a limited benefit. He says the number of people who fall in this category is far less than the Administration has projected.

Commissioner Crowley disagrees. He says the program can be effective when it’s coupled with a basic insurance plan for people who work for companies that don’t offer coverage.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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