MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Since 2011, rural Minnesotans saw the sharpest drop in those without health insurance compared to urban areas, according Minnesota health officials.
On Monday, the Minnesota Department of Health said the percentage of rural residents under 65 who were uninsured dropped from 12 percent in 2011 to 5 percent in 2015 – a decrease of 7 percentage points.
During the same period of time, the urban uninsured rate dropped by 5 percentage points.
The MDH says this closes a gap that previously existed between rural and urban Minnesotans. In 2011, rural children had much higher uninsured rates than urban children. However, by 2015, child uninsured rates in both areas were equal at 3 percent.
The MDH says the gap between urban and rural insurance rates in previously seen among people of color and American Indians was also eliminated.
Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger lauded the numbers, but also criticized the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which went into full effect in 2014.
“It is encouraging to know that in recent years Minnesota made significant progress on a key health equity issue by eliminating insurance disparities between rural and urban residents,” Ehlinger said. “However, it is also clear that this important gain could be in jeopardy. This study shows that any repeal of the ACA without a replacement ensuring similar rural coverage levels would disproportionally hurt rural Minnesotans.”
Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper says while insurance coverage improved, some residents still struggle to access and pay for health care services.
“Despite this progress, these reports demonstrate that we have work yet to do. Minnesotans served by the individual market continue to see high premiums and cost sharing. As part of his commitment to serve the needs of rural Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed allowing individuals and families to buy into the affordable coverage of MinnesotaCare,” Piper said.