Navigating Health Insurance in Prince George’s County: Exploring Challenges and Options
August 11, 2023 by Bethaney Bolha, Maria Chen, Vivian King & Eva Nicolosi
Hello! We are fellows with the Atlantis program. We spent the last few weeks at Children’s National Hospital as part of a 3 week fellowship program working with the Child Health Advocacy Institute to dig deep into the issue of health insurance coverage. Below is a bit of what we learned!
Access to quality healthcare is crucial for the overall well-being of individuals and communities. In Prince George’s County, a diverse and vibrant region neighboring Washington, D.C., the significance of health insurance coverage cannot be understated. Shockingly, as of 2020, about 13% of adults in the county lacked health insurance, accounting for approximately 78,734 uninsured individuals. This statistic highlights the pressing need to address the gaps in coverage to ensure all residents have access to essential health care services. Health insurance not only safeguards individuals from the financial burden of unexpected medical expenses, but also facilitates regular check-ups, preventive care, and vaccinations. In this blog post, we will delve into the available health insurance options for residents of Prince George’s County, shedding light on the current realities and challenges surrounding health insurance coverage in the area.
The importance of health coverage services cannot be overstated. Almost half of those without coverage reported experiencing difficulties in paying their medical bills, whereas this was the case for less than one in four individuals who had insurance. Additionally, the uninsured are three times more likely than the insured to be unable to afford basic necessities due to the burden of medical expenses. The impact of health insurance on the well-being and quality of life of individuals within communities is significant. It is crucial to raise awareness about the existing disparities and to emphasize the diverse range of options available to individuals, empowering them to make informed decisions regarding their healthcare needs.
Within Children’s National Hospital’s Community Health Needs Assessment, the number of uninsured individuals within Prince George’s County was determined to be one of the top four issues in the area, along with lack of healthy food, low employment, and early childhood education. The uninsured rate among adults in Prince George’s County is currently higher than the national and state average with 78,734 uninsured adults out of a total of 605,664 residents. Notably, the county’s uninsured rate is 5% higher than the average of Maryland as a whole, which stands at 8%. Similarly, the uninsured rate among children in Prince George’s County is concerning, with 5% lacking health insurance coverage, representing approximately 10,556 children as of 2020. This percentage is also higher than the average rate for the entire state of Maryland, which is 3% for uninsured children.
Not only do Prince George’s County residents have a higher number of individuals not enrolled in health insurance, but they do not have access to specialized programs available in neighboring regions. For example, programs like the Alliance Program aim to serve residents of the District of Columbia (D.C.) who are aged 21 that do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and have income levels below 210% of the Federal Poverty Level. Similarly, D.C.’s Immigrant Children’s Program focuses on providing medical support to immigrant children under 21 years old who are D.C. residents and their family income is 200% below the Federal Poverty Level. These programs are both exclusive to residents of D.C. Unfortunately, residents of Prince George’s County who meet the same eligibility criteria do not have access to these insurance programs. The disparity in health insurance coverage may be attributed to the fact that Prince George’s County is located in Maryland rather than D.C. Consequently, this could contribute to the higher rate of uninsured individuals observed in the county.
In Prince George’s County, individuals without health insurance or coverage through their employer still have various insurance options to consider:
- Medicare, a federal insurance program, serves as an alternative for individuals aged 65 above or those under 65 with specific disabilities such as end-stage renal disease.
- Medicaid, another federal insurance program, allows enrollment at any time but is income-dependent. Unfortunately, one of the challenges in Prince George’s County is that health insurance premiums can be unaffordable for individuals who do not meet the income threshold to qualify for Medicaid.
- The Maryland Children’s Health Program provides coverage for pregnant individuals and children under 19 years It provides healthcare services for children in need of medical care, regardless of their family’s income or immigration status.
- Kaiser Care for Kids specifically caters to uninsured children under 19 years old, primarily in Prince George’s County. This program offers free healthcare coverage and does not require citizenship, making it accessible to a broader range of individuals.
These alternative insurance options aim to address the needs of individuals and families in Prince George’s County who may not have access to traditional health insurance plans or coverage through their employers.
Understanding the importance of health insurance coverage and learning about the options available in Prince George’s County is vital for the well-being of residents and the community as a whole. It is obvious that there are challenges and disparities that must be addressed to ensure equitable access to healthcare for all residents. Advocating for affordable and comprehensive health insurance and raising awareness about its importance is the first step to help to bridge the gaps in coverage in Prince George’s County. Every individual deserves access to quality healthcare, regardless of their income, age, or immigration status. Together, we can strive for a future where health insurance coverage is accessible to all residents of Prince George’s County.
- “Do I Need Health Insurance?” Maryland Health Connection, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, 2020, www.marylandhealthconnection.gov/do-i-need-health-insurance/. Accessed July 3, 2023.
- “Health Rankings: Prince George’s, MD.” County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, 2023, www.countyhealthrankings.org/explore-health-rankings/maryland/prince-georges?year=2023. Accessed July 3, 2023.
- “Health Insurance Options.” Maryland Insurance Administration, 2023, insurance.maryland.gov/Consumer/Pages/HealthInsuranceOptions.aspx. Accessed July 10, 2023.
- “The Uninsured and the Difference Health Insurance Makes.” KFF, 2013, www.kff.org/health-reform/fact-sheet/the-uninsured-and-the-difference-health-insurance/. Accessed July 8, 2023.
About the author
Atlantis Fellows (Health Insurance Group)
Bethaney Bolha, Maria Chen, Vivian King and Eva Nicolosi