DES MOINES — All parts of Iowa are not created equal when it comes to health insurance.
By national standards, the economically stable state has a relatively low number of people without any health coverage — just 10.7 percent of the population under 65, according to 2010 Census data. But a closer look at the numbers shows that some Iowa counties are far needier, with up to 18 percent of that age group lacking insurance, based on the Small Area Health Insurance Estimates survey.
The question many experts in the state are now asking is whether President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul will help reduce those numbers. The law was designed to drive down the number of people without health insurance, both through an expansion of Medicaid and with new health care marketplaces where people can shop for private coverage and apply for government aid to pay premiums. People can start signing up for plans Oct.1, with the coverage to start Jan. 1.
But so far there has been little marketing or outreach in the state and few residents know how it will work. Keith Mueller, a professor who heads the Department of Health Management and Policy at the University of Iowa, thinks the new federal law can help get more people insured, but he warned it could take some time.
“Once word begins to spread, that will be what helps it take off,” Mueller said. “It may take into the second year. It’s going to take a lot of grassroots, person-to-person organizations to get out there and help folks.”
Rural residents in Iowa appear to have a tougher time accessing insurance coverage than urban dwellers. The farm-heavy Allamakee County in northeast Iowa has 18.2 percent of people under 65 without insurance, the highest percentage in the state. The lowest number came in Warren County, part of the Des Moines metro area, where just 7.8 percent of people lacked insurance.