Although working two part-time jobs helps Layla Jones pay her bills, it doesn’t help her much when she has to visit the doctor.
“In this economy, I’m just happy to have a job, but because I’m only part time, I’m not eligible for health insurance benefits,” said Jones, an Oakwood resident who works at two fast-food restaurants. “With what I bring home, I make just enough to pay my bills, but it’s not much left over after that. I just try my best not to get sick.”
Jones, isn’t alone. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, millions of Americans are uninsured. Although the highest rates of uninsured residents are clustered mostly in the central and midwest areas of the country, there are pockets of lower health insurance coverage around the U.S.
In Georgia, counties in the northeastern portion of the state have the lowest percentages of residents with health insurance coverage.
According to the census, 22.6 percent to 29.1 percent of residents younger than 65 in Hall, Dawson, Habersham, Lumpkin and Rabun counties are uninsured.
The only two Georgia counties with a higher percentage of uninsured residents — 29.2 percent to 49.5 percent for the younger than 65 demographic — are Clarke and Echols counties.
“In general, whether or not an individual has health insurance coverage is tied to a family’s income,” said Glenn Landers, a senior research associate with the Georgia Health Policy Center. “To the degree that family incomes are lower in a particular area, the uninsured rates are likely to be higher.”
Researchers with the policy center, which is a part of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, have been studying health insurance coverage patterns around the state.
“About 90 percent of Georgians with private insurance get it through employer-based plans. If employers don’t offer insurance, (employees) are more likely to not have coverage,” Landers said. “And in cases where it is offered, but employees make low wages, they typically are not going to take it up because they think they don’t have enough income for it.
“We’ve also noticed that folks in North Georgia tend to not take up public insurance programs that they are eligible for like other folks in the rest of the state.”
Children younger than 18 are more likely to have coverage because they may be eligible for public health insurance plans, Landers said. If a county has more residents that are older than 18, that area is more likely to have higher rates of residents without insurance coverage. According to the census, 75.5 percent of Hall County’s population is at least 18 years old.
“Another important thing to note is that young adults (between the ages of 24-30) are most likely to not be covered,” Landers said. “Typically, they are right out of school and don’t have employment yet that offers coverage, or they think that they aren’t going to get sick so they spend their money on other things.”