Rolling the dice on health coverage

“Who are these people?”

If you can afford health insurance, that might have been your first reaction to the news Friday that another 100,000 Minnesotans went without coverage in 2009 compared to 2007.

Dive into the report detail and you’ll see, increasingly, it’s a portrait of middle income Minnesota.

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Those with the lowest incomes were still far more likely to be without coverage. But there was a big jump in people in the upper middle income range, “an indication that the economic downturn has not bypassed groups that typically have low rates of uninsurance,” the state Health Department noted.

The department identified that group as having family incomes 300 to 400 percent above the poverty level of $22,050 for a family of four. That puts those family incomes at about $66,000 to $88,000.

The median family income for a family of four in Minnesota is $86,637, according to Census data.

Also, the percentage of uninsured college graduates rose from 2.4 percent in 2007 to 4.5 percent last year.

Maybe most concerning: The percentage of Minnesotans who said they got insurance from their employer dropped to 57 percent, down from 63 percent in 2007 and 2004.

Given the job hit Minnesota’s taken in this recession, that drop makes sense. But if you’re not working for an employer offering an affordable plan and you earn too much to qualify for public subsidies, the cost is brutal.

“Paying for health insurance is just not even a remote possibility right now,” Pamela Nelson of Shoreview, a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network, told us back in November. The cost of the best health plan option available to her family was the equivalent of buying a new car every year.

“Here’s the ‘least expensive’ option for our family of 4, since we do not qualify for MN Care or Medicare and do not work for employers who offer health insurance benefits: $600/month for a $10,000 deductible (catastrophic) plan…we would basically pay $17,000/year before their 80/20 coverage would even kick in.

“Lower deductible plans cost considerably more up front/monthly.” She and her husband are independent consultants, “underemployed currently and do not qualify for unemployment,” she told us then.

We’re checking in with Nelson today to see if things have changed and we’ll post any updates. But the Health Department data confirms that more families like hers are rolling the dice on coverage.

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Got a perspective or a different take on the Health Department report? Are you happy with your insurance coverage options? Post below or contact me directly.