The Potluck

Minnesota’s racial disparities in health care coverage worsened last year, state says

By: - April 21, 2022 3:03 pm
Photo illustration of nurses in a hospital

Photo illustration by FS Productions.

Minnesota’s racial disparities in health care coverage worsened in 2021, according to survey data released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health.

About 10.2% of Minnesotans of color didn’t have health insurance in 2021 — up from 7.6% in 2019, according to MDH. At the same time, the uninsured rate among non-Latino white people fell from 3.7% to 2.4%.

The state’s overall uninsured rate dropped to 4% — a record low — from 4.7%.

The results show that government efforts aimed at helping Minnesotans maintain health care coverage during the pandemic didn’t benefit everyone equally, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a news release.

“We must learn about what worked and what didn’t so we can adapt our approach to reach the goal of ongoing and equitable access to affordable health care for all Minnesotans,” Malcolm said.

The percentage of people with private insurance dropped from 57.8% to 54.8% between 2019 and 2021, which often happens during economic downturns as people lose their jobs and their employer-provided health care plans. An increase in the number of Minnesotans with public insurance like Medicare and Medical Assistance — 238,000 people, or an increase of four percentage points — made up for the decline.

Experts say they’re concerned more Minnesotans will lose health care coverage over the next year, however, as programs intended to help people keep their coverage during the pandemic expire. 

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.