Grant for University to study uninsured and underinsured

by Mickie Barg

A grant awarded to the University’s School of Public Health by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation last month will fund the collection of statistics to help clarify issues related to health insurance.
University project directors Lynn Blewett and Kathleen Call plan to use the $4 million grant over three years to formulate an accurate picture of the nation’s uninsured and underinsured. The data will be compiled on a state-by-state basis through the newly established State Health Access Data Assistance Center.
“There have been statistics available, but we can help each state collect their own data instead of relying on sometimes inaccurate national data,” Call said.
The data assistance center will collect statistics in a standardized format to be used by state and national policy makers. The center will help each state identify questions about the uninsured and assist in using the data to improve health care, Blewett said.
Additionally, the center will provide analysis, technical assistance and increase communication on health care access between states and the federal government.
Blewett said states have little expertise in compiling statistics and some use market research firms. So far only 15 states have done some type of insurance survey, but the federal courts are shifting responsibility for monitoring to the states.
“The project will help states with the best reliable technology available to do sampling, get accurate results and make the best use of the data,” Blewett said.
Minnesota’s record in achieving low rates of uninsured patients was a determining factor in the award and the establishment of the center.
The state has been at the forefront of initiatives to improve health care beginning with the Children’s Health Plan in the 1980s. Uninsured surveys were released for the state in 1999, 1995 and 1991. The most recent two studies were done by the University and funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest health care philanthropy foundation in the nation. It awards about $260 million a year to improve health and health care.

Mickie Barg covers the Medical School and welcomes comments at [email protected]