Another Voice: Upstate health care is a template for the nation - The Buffalo News

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Another Voice: Upstate health care is a template for the nation

By Art Wingerter

When it comes to financing and delivering high-quality health care, other parts of the country can look to upstate New York for a primer on how it should be done. A higher percentage of the population here has health insurance coverage than the state and the nation. Scale is what makes our region a valid case study.

Our portion of upstate – stretching from Utica in the east to Buffalo in the west, and from Binghamton in the south to the Adirondacks in the north – has a population larger than 28 states.

If the U.S. uninsured rate were on par with upstate New York, 21 million more Americans would have health insurance coverage.

Our region is characterized by strong local collaborations among those who provide care and the employers and insurers who finance it. Those collaborations include P2, and the region’s clinical information exchange, HEALTHeLINK. Also unique to our region is that coverage here is provided predominantly by local, nonprofit health plans with low operating margins.

These factors have contributed to an uninsured rate in upstate New York of 8.4 percent, compared to 11.4 percent for the state and 15.1 percent for the nation. When comparing our region to other states, only Massachusetts and the less populous states of Vermont and Hawaii have lower uninsured rates.

Focus only on the population age 64 and younger, and upstate New York is doing even better than what the Congressional Budget Office predicts federal health care reform will accomplish for the nation by 2023. A CBO report issued last May forecasted that the health insurance coverage rate for the U.S. population younger than age 65 would reach 89 percent by 2023 when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. We were already at 91 percent, before federal health care reform could even have an impact.

Let’s also look at our region’s mix of employer-based health insurance coverage and government-funded safety net programs.

A higher percentage of people here have their health insurance coverage through an employer, which means less government-based coverage funded by taxpayers. Sixty-two percent of the population here has employer-based coverage, compared to the state rate of 57.4 percent and national rate of 54.8 percent.

You can find all this information on the uninsured in a Univera Healthcare report posted at

As the numbers demonstrate, upstate New York has a terrific story to tell when it comes to the way we finance and deliver health care. I encourage readers to share this news beyond our region so that others will look at what we’re doing here, and benefit from our template.

Art Wingerter is president of Univera Healthcare.

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