Lisa Cacari Stone, PhD
Lisa Cacari Stone, PhD, is an associate professor with the Department of Family and Community Medicine and senior research fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico.

It has long been known that insurance leads to better health and quality of life, yet UNM researchers recently found that U.S. counties vary widely in the number of insured residents. Uninsurance rates ranged from 3 to 53 percent.  Moreover, researchers found a number of predictors that impact insurance rates.

Uneven economic development, differing local policies concerning access, and ideological predispositions that influence county policies on health care all emerged as conditions affecting the variation in insurance coverage.

The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy, is the first national research to examine multiple predictors explaining insurance coverage across all 3112 counties in the United States, said UNM researcher Lisa Cacari Stone, PhD, an associate professor at the UNM Health Sciences Center Public Health Program.

“Traditionally, we have looked at the effects of health care policies made at the national and state levels,” said Cacari Stone.  “Examining how county-level health care decisions affect access helps us rethink the role of local governments, their political ideologies regarding reform and how that plays out at the front lines of policy implementation. Success in reducing the number of uninsured will require collaboration between the federal, state, tribal and county governments.”

Using public databases from 2008 to 2012, the group’s analysis suggested that poverty, unemployment, voting patterns and percentages of Hispanic and American Indian/ Alaskan Native residents in a county were significant predictors of uninsurance rates.