April 17, 2008

Idaho's Uninsured

Host Marcia Franklin talks with three physicians who regularly treat the uninsured. The group will discuss the effects on society from the lack of access to health insurance, as well as potential solutions.

Guests for the program are: Karl Watts, MD, the director of the Genesis Medical Center in Boise and a member of Governor Otter’s Select Committee on Health Care; Patrice Burgess, MD, past president of the Idaho Medical Association and chair of that group’s Committee on the Uninsured; Jonathan Bowman, MD, the medical director for Terry Reilly Health Services, which operates six clinics in Ada and Canyon counties.

According to a July 2007 study commissioned by Idaho's Office of Performance Evaluations, between 16 and 18 percent of Idaho's population is uninsured, with the vast majority ineligible for public coverage. The rate of uninsured is eight points higher in rural areas than in urban settings. The lack of coverage results in less preventive care, more costly visits to the emergency room, and even deaths. In addition, the insured population pays higher premiums to cover the cost of treating those without insurance.

Idaho is in the process of assessing other state models for addressing this issue, including creating a public/private insurance pool and making health insurance more portable between jobs.