The percentage of North Carolinians under the age of 65 who lacked health insurance for a year has risen from 15.3 percent in 2000 to 17.2 percent in 2005. The proportion of uninsured residents ranged from a low of 13.4 percent in Wake County to a high of 27.5 percent in Tyrrell County.
Lack of health insurance is a particularly acute problem in Eastern North Carolina; nine of the 10 counties with the highest proportion of uninsured lie east of Interstate 95.
"County Estimates of the Number of Uninsured in North Carolina: A 2005 Update," was released today (April 23, 2007) by the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the North Carolina Institute of Medicine. The report draws its estimates from two years of Current Population Survey data and includes rates for children under age 18 and adults 18 to 64.
"North Carolina has experienced a large decline in the percent of residents receiving health insurance from their employers. Although this trend is occurring across the nation, North Carolina's decline has been large compared to other states'," said Mark Holmes, a Sheps Center senior research fellow and vice president of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine.
Holmes co-authored the study with Tom Ricketts, professor of health policy and administration in UNC's School of Public Health and deputy director of Sheps.
The counties with the lowest rate of residents lacking health insurance coverage include Wake County, with 13.4 percent, followed by Orange County with 15 percent uninsured. Counties with a high proportion of their non-elderly residents lacking health insurance included Tyrrell, with 27.5 percent; Hyde, with 26.1 percent; and Greene, with 24.1 percent.
The uninsured are 25 percent more likely to die a premature death, Holmes said.
"Having access to estimates of the percent of local residents without health insurance enables institutions such as public health departments, hospitals, and physicians to plan for meeting the needs of the uninsured population. It also allows policymakers to determine where to best target their efforts," Holmes said.