Health Insurance More Common in Northwest Oregon

by Erik Knoder

April 13, 2017

More people in Northwest Oregon had health insurance in 2015 than in previous years. The percentage of people without health insurance dropped sharply in 2014 and continued to drop in 2015.

Most people in Oregon were covered by health insurance in 2015; only an estimated 8.4 percent of the population ages 0 through 64 were uninsured that year. Most people age 65 or older are eligible for Medicare insurance. The percentage of people who were uninsured in Northwest Oregon as a whole was the same (8.4%), but it did vary by county.
Benton and Columbia counties had the lowest shares (7.1%) of their population under 65 who were uninsured. Lincoln County had the highest share (11.5%) of its population uninsured. Clatsop County had 9.3 percent of its population uninsured, and Tillamook County had 10.2 percent of its population uninsured.

Why do the counties have different rates of uninsured? One factor might be the quality of jobs in the counties, because many workers can receive health insurance through their employers. Benton and Columbia counties had the highest annual wages in the region. The annual average wage in Benton County was $46,937 in 2015, and Columbia County’s wage was $36,892. Lincoln County had the lowest annual average wage at $34,611. It may be that relatively more employers of Benton and Columbia counties’ residents offer health insurance as a benefit along with higher wages.

It may also be that more residents of Benton and Columbia counties can afford to buy insurance. In this case, it may be more useful to look at family income instead of just earned wages. The reason for looking at income is that more than half of Columbia County’s working residents commute to jobs outside the county. Many commute to the Portland metro area, which pays higher wages. The annual average wage paid by Columbia County businesses is not reflective of all the income that the residents receive. In fact, the median household income in Columbia County was $53,179 in 2015, the highest of any county in the region.
Benton County also had a fairly high income, followed by Clatsop and Tillamook counties, and Lincoln County had the lowest household income at $42,101 in 2015.

In Northwest Oregon, more people have gotten health care insurance in the past couple years, but getting insurance still seems to be related to household income and job quality.

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