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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield: Upstate New York has relatively high job-based health insurance coverage, below-average uninsured rates

Upstate New York’s uninsured rate is 5 percentage points below the national average, thanks in part to higher levels of employment-based health insurance coverage in the region, according to an Excellus BlueCross BlueShield census data analysis.

With a population of more than 6 million residents, upstate New York has more residents than 34 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and it’s among the 10 most favorable places to live when it comes to health insurance coverage.

Upstate New York’s three-year average (2008 through 2010) uninsured rate is 11.1 percent, lower than the New York state average of 14.6 percent and national average of 16.1. From 2008 through 2010, the employer-based coverage rate was 62.4 percent in upstate New York and about 56 percent statewide and across the U.S.

“The Facts About Employer-Based Health Coverage and Uninsured Rates in Upstate New York” also highlights the uninsured and employment-based health insurance rates in upstate New York’s four largest urban areas (Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse).

Combined, these four urban centers are home to about two-thirds of the total upstate New York population. Just 9 percent of these residents are uninsured, and 62.7 percent have employer-sponsored health coverage. The uninsured rate is 11.6 percent in Syracuse, 13.1 percent in Albany, 10.0 percent in Buffalo and 6.3 percent in Rochester. Job-based coverage rates in these areas range from 61.4 percent in Syracuse to 67.4 percent in Albany.

By comparison, the smaller metropolitan and nonurban communities that comprise the balance of upstate New York combined have a higher uninsured rate (13 percent) and a slightly lower job-based coverage rate (62.1 percent).

Lower health care costs in upstate New York may explain why the region has higher levels of employment-based health insurance coverage and a lower-than-average uninsured rate.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s analysis presents data from “The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care” suggesting that health care costs less in upstate New York than it does statewide and nationally. According to “The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care,” Medicare spending (an indicator of costs) in 2008 was $7,193 per Upstate New York recipient, 30 percent less than the statewide figure ($10,267) and 20 percent less than the national figure ($9,021). Per-enrollee spending was $7,534 in Syracuse, $7,927 in Buffalo, $7,279 in Albany and $7,037 in Rochester (where uninsured rates are the lowest among the four largest upstate New York metropolitan areas).

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