Health & Family

Health Insurance

Without health insurance, citizens often are unable to pay for the medical care they need, and frequently forego preventative measures that would make that care unnecessary. Virginia works to reach this population through a variety of federal and state programs designed to serve different needs. Despite these efforts, an unacceptable percentage of the state's population remains uninsured.

Why is This Important?

Health insurance is defined as insurance against loss by illness or bodily injury. Health insurance generally provides coverage for medicine, visits to the doctor or emergency room, hospital stays, and other medical expenses. Policies differ in what they cover, the size of the deductible and/or co-payment, limits of coverage, and the options for treatment available to the policyholder. The uninsured by population is measured by the percentage of population not covered by private or public health insurance. This measure is important, as research has shown individuals without health insurance have great difficulty accessing the health care system and frequently do not participate in preventive care programs.

How is Virginia Doing?

Estimates of uninsurance in Virginia over the past several years have ranged from 9 percent to 15 percent of the total population, due to differences in survey methodology, changes in policies and demographics, and fluctuations in the economy. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Health Insurance Estimates Program, the national average of uninsured was 14.2 percent in 2000. In the same year, Virginia's rate was 12.2 percent, lower than the national average. In comparison with its peers, Virginia had a lower percentage of uninsured than Tennessee (12.7 percent), North Carolina (14.1 percent) and Maryland (12.4 percent). Minnesota had the lowest uninsured rate (9.1 percent) among the states.

Within Virginia, the percent of estimated uninsured in the Eastern (15.5 percent), Hampton Roads (13.3 percent), Southside (13.1 percent) and Southwest (12.8 percent) regions exceeded the statewide average for 2000. The Northern region was equivalent to the statewide average and the Central, Valley and West Central regions had lower rates, ranging from 10.2 percent to 11 percent.

Percent Uninsured, 2004. See text for explanation. Percent Uninsured, By Region, 2004. See text for explanation.

What Influences Health Insurance by Population Rate?

Income Level: People with income at or below 200 percent of poverty are nearly twice as likely to be uninsured as people at higher income levels.

Age: Young adults are at greater risk for being uninsured than children and older adults.

Race: People of non-white racial backgrounds are at greater risk of being uninsured.

Employment Status: Unemployed individuals, part-time workers, and homemakers are at greater risk of being uninsured.

Firm Size: Employees of very small firms are typically at greater risk of being uninsured.

What is the State's Role?

Medicaid and FAMIS assist eligible Virginians. Teaching hospitals, state facilities, community health centers and free clinics offer health care services either free or at a reduced rate. Considerable attention is still needed to achieve:

Data Definitions and Sources

State and Regional Data: U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Health Insurance Estimates Program
Release date: July 21, 2005

Virginia Health Access Survey, Virginia Health Care Foundation, 2001


Major State Programs

Authorized under Title XIX of the Social Security Act, Medicaid is an entitlement program financed by the state and federal governments. In Virginia, Medicaid and Virginia's Child Health Insurance Programs (FAMIS and FAMIS Plus) are administered by the Department of Medical Assistance Services.

Additional Information

The Virginia Health Care Foundation works to improve the lives and health of Virginia's uninsured by helping to make primary health care more available to uninsured and medically underserved Virginians.