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Poll: One Quarter of Kentuckians Have No Health Insurance

May 4, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Nearly a quarter of the state's population is going without health insurance, according to a new poll.

The annual Kentucky Health Issues Poll, a random sample of more than 1,600 Kentucky adults, is a snapshot of how many adults younger than age 65 in the state have health coverage. The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky helped fund the survey, and Sarah Walsh, the group's senior program officer, says the findings confirm what many have suspected.

"Of that kind of working-age population of adults, this year we found that about one in four were currently uninsured. Twenty-six percent of those 18 to 64 told us they did not have health insurance."

However, Walsh says that number is an improvement over the previous year, when 33 percent were uninsured at the peak of the recession in 2009. The poll focuses on people in the 18-to-64 age group, she says, since most who are 65 and older are insured under Medicare.

It's not surprising that Kentucky households with lower incomes have higher un-insurance rates, Walsh says. The poll suggests that young adults, ages 18 to 29, are twice as likely to be without insurance as are people ages 46 and older. The survey also finds more than a third of Kentuckians under age 65 have been uninsured at some point in the last year.

"Too many Kentuckians are going without health insurance, and it's particularly alarming when we look at these gaps in coverage in the preceding year. If we're not consistently insured and a health-care crisis strikes, illness occurs. That can really have a catastrophic effect on someone's finances."

Kentucky is transitioning to a "managed care" approach in the Medicaid system as a way to help plug a multimillion-dollar hole in the Medicaid budget and control future costs. Jodi Mitchell, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, says that action - along with federal moves to expand access to health services - are converging at just the right time.

"In 2014 is when the provision of the health-reform law goes into effect to expand Medicaid, and so it will be important that the state rein in the cost prior to that expansion."

It's expected that 261,000 Kentuckians will benefit from Medicaid expansion under the new federal law.

The 2010 Kentucky Health Issues Poll, "Kentuckians Experiences with Having Health Insurance Coverage," is online at

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY