The Utah Department of Health released new data Wednesday estimating that more than 13 percent of the population went without health insurance last year. That’s about 3 percentage points higher than the previous year, but health officials say the increase is at least partly due to improved survey methods.
UDOH spokesperson Tom Hudachko says you can’t make a fair comparison between numbers in 2010 and 2011 because state survey methods were changed significantly. For example, pollsters are now calling cellphones instead of just land lines.
“It’s hard to determine whether we’ve actually seen as dramatic increase as the numbers represent, or if we’re now just doing a better job of seeking out and talking to people who are uninsured,” said Hudachko.
The data shows that more than 29 percent of self-employed Utahns were uninsured. And more than 56,000 children were uninsured and living below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, making them eligible for Utah’s Childrens Health Insurance Program or CHIP.
“The fact that we’ve got that many children sitting out there in the state who are currently uninsured but who are eligible for a program that could get some help that they need, is really going to be a point of focus for us,” Hudachko told KUER.
Hudachko could not point to any concrete actions the state would make to reduce the number of uninsured children, but he says these findings should drive policy discussions about what can be done to help Utahns get access to insurance.