Where are Minnesota’s uninsured?

The health care debate’s gone a little squirrely. So rather than jump into that fray, let’s step back and ask a question: Where do Minnesota’s uninsured live? You might be surprised. More importantly: Can you help explain it?

Newly released data from the Census Bureau shows Minnesota had the highest percentage of health insured citizens in the country under 65 in 2006 — about 91 percent. But there are some striking geographical disparities.

Check out this county-by-county map produced by PBS. If you ignore their goofy icons and look at the data it’s pretty interesting. (Also, try my low tech but more earnest Minnesota map.)

In total numbers, the high population counties hold the most uninsured. You’d expect that. But look at the at percentages by county.

I’m surprised to see double digits in many southern and southwestern Minnesota counties where unemployment has consistently been the lowest in the state, running mostly between three and four percent during 2006.

I would have guessed that the no-insurance numbers would match up pretty close to the unemployment numbers. It doesn’t necessarily look that way. What are we seeing there? Processing plant workers going without insurance? Farmers? Self-employed small town businesspeople?

The highest county uninsured rates are along Minnesota’s borders: Cook and Lake of the Woods along the Canadian border and Traverse on the North/South Dakota line.

Take a look at the data and help me understand. Post below or drop me a line and let me know what you take away from the data.

If we can examine pieces of data on who’s not employed and where, maybe it’d be easier to talk about solutions. We could use some.

We’ve heard from people in MPR’s Public Insight Network who lost their health insurance with their job, can’t pay for expensive COBRA coverage and are basically rolling the dice.

They include Jim Nagy of Nisswa, MN, an art director who told us a few weeks ago he and his family were uninsured.

I just got laid off and started my own company during a very tough time. I’m getting rave reviews from freelance clients but there just isn’t any work out there…with the tight budget of starting a company, we can’t afford a COBRA…we pray that nothing serious happens.

Kate Krisik, a Network source and administrator with a non-profit, says, “Health care coverage is too expensive for most businesses to maintain for their employees and cost prohibitive for individuals/families to purchase themselves.

My employer does not have a group health insurance policy but will reimburse employees for a portion of their private health insurance premiums. I have been unable to get private health insurance coverage for my husband and me so we are both uninsured.

“There are quite possibly five to seven major issues with health care that all need to be dealt with simultaneously,” says David Frank, a source from Canby, MN who’s a licensed broker for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of MN and other plans.

“It seems that groups latch on to just one of the issues and then those groups argue with each other over who is correct when in reality they are all correct.”

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We’ve been asking people to share their experiences in the health care system. You can share your story here.

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