The University Record, September 20, 1999

New study to determine number of state’s uninsured and underinsured

By Amy Reyes
News and Information Services

Two School of Public Health faculty members have been awarded a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation (BCBSM) grant to assess the characteristics of and the number of uninsured and underinsured residents in Michigan.

Rashid Bashshur, professor of health management and policy and director of telemedicine at the Health System, and Jack Wheeler, professor of health management and policy and director of Michigan health services research, recently received $75,000 from the BCBSM Foundation to determine how many Michigan residents are uninsured or underinsured and who they are.

“It will be interesting to find out how many people in the state lack any form of health insurance and how many lack the minimal amount of insurance that constitutes adequate coverage. Who are these people and where are they located? More importantly, what can be done about it?” Bashshur said.

Bashshur and Wheeler will analyze statistics taken from a national survey conducted in 1997 by the Urban Institute, a Washington-based nonpartisan economic and social policy research organization. The survey gathered data on the rate of the uninsured and underinsured in the nation.

In 1989, Bashshur, on behalf of a Governor’s Task Force on Access to Care, issued a similar report that assessed the numbers and characteristics of the uninsured or underinsured people in Michigan.

Bashshur and Wheeler are working with the Access to Health Care Coalition, a BCBSM initiative made up of representatives from the public and private sectors.

The forthcoming report will be submitted to Access to Health Care, Wheeler said. “What we hope to do with our research is to provide information to the Access to Health Care Coalition, and private and public organizations interested in resolving the problem of the uninsured in Michigan. We hope to find information that will aid in developing programs so that they can pursue the objective of getting more people covered. The goal is to implement programs that will be designed to insure the uninsured or underinsured,” he said.

The study has the potential to be the basis for developing programs to help provide health insurance for uninsured Michigan residents and children eligible for state programs such as MIChild and Healthy kids, said Ira Strumwasser, executive director and CEO of the BCBSM Foundation.

“The assumption is that the number of the uninsured in Michigan may have increased,” Bashshur said. “We know that there are a substantial number of people in the state who lack any form of health insurance—private or public. We also know there are some who have insurance part of the year and others who have insurance with so many limitations that in some cases, basic care coverage isn’t complete.”