The percentage of U.S. Virgin Islanders without health insurance is nearly 30 percent and rising, according to a just-completed draft market analysis of the territory’s private insurance market. Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s health reform task force discussed the analysis at its April meeting.
The task force contracted Value Advisory Group to analyze the local insurance market to help it determine how to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, and if the territory should set up a health insurance exchange, or instead take more Medicaid funding. (See related links below)
The territory has until Oct. 1 to make a decision and until January 2014 to set up an exchange, if it moves in that direction.
Value Advisory Group found about 29.7 percent of the Virgin Islands population is uninsured, up from 28.7 percent in 2009 and 24.1 percent in 2003. The numbers of uninsured higher are higher on St. Croix than in the St. Thomas/St. John district.
Young adults are slipping through the cracks in the territory, with a massive 53.4 percent of all 18-24 year olds uninsured. By contrast, about 16 percent of 18-24 year-olds nationwide are uninsured, according to data from the 2010 U.S. Census.
Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals up to age 26 can be covered under a parent or guardian’s health insurance plan. Study findings indicate many V.I. residents do not seek preventive care for health problems and tend to pursue home remedies for ailments, citing cost and other social factors.
Director of Banking and Insurance John McDonald chaired the meeting and said one important consideration in the health care insurance exchange decision is the size of our current private insurance market and the fact that the territory does not have an insurance mandate like the mainland states.
In the states, individuals will be required to procure insurance, and exchanges will ensure that it is possible to purchase insurance. But those provisions of the law do not apply to the territory.
McDonald asserted that without an individual and small business insurance mandate, companies would be subject to adverse risk selection. That means sicker individuals would seek insurance and healthy individuals with low health care costs would not. According to McDonald, the territory’s insurance regulator, this would make it difficult for insurers to keep premiums and co-payments affordable.
The meeting was held at Government House on St. Thomas. The next meeting of the Task Force is scheduled for May 2013 at Government House on St. Croix.