Health and Family

Health Insurance

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Health Insurance

Without health insurance, citizens often are unable to pay for the medical care they need and frequently forego preventive measures that would make that care unnecessary. Virginia works to reach the uninsured through a variety of federal and state programs designed to serve different needs. Despite these efforts, over one million Virginians lack health insurance.

Why is This Important?

Health insurance generally provides coverage for preventive care, medicine, visits to the doctor or emergency room, hospital stays, and other medical expenses. Policies differ in what they cover, the size of the deductible and/or co-payment, limits of coverage, and the options for treatment available to the policyholder.

Research has consistently shown that individuals without health insurance have great difficulty accessing the health care system and frequently do not participate in preventive care programs that help deter the development of physical ailments and chronic diseases. When the uninsured do seek treatment, it is often through public hospitals and emergency room care, increasing the financial burden on state and federal coffers.

How is Virginia Doing?

Percent of Residents without Health Care Insurance, by State. See text for explanation.

The uninsured population is measured by the percentage of people under age 65 not covered by private or public health insurance. Often these are working people who do not get health insurance from their employers but whose income is too high to qualify for public assistance via Medicaid.

Based on the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the national average for uninsured people under age 65 was 17.7 percent in 2012. In the same year, Virginia's rate was 14.2 percent, ranking it 16th among all the states; this marks a clear improvement from 2011, when over 15 percent of Virginians were uninsured.

In comparison with its peers, Virginia had a lower percentage of uninsured individuals than North Carolina (20.2%) and Tennessee (16.1%), but a bit higher than Maryland (14.1%). Massachusetts, which in 2006-07 began mandating that every state resident acquire healthcare coverage, again had the lowest uninsured rate -- 4.9 percent -- in the nation.

Percent of Uninsured by Virginia Region.  See text for explanation.

In 2011, the Southside (17.7 percent), Eastern (17.5 percent), and Valley (17.2) regions had the highest uninsured percentages. The Northern region had the lowest rate at 12.4 percent uninsured. The regional statewide average for uninsured persons under the age of 65 was 14.3 percent.

  • The private sector currently insures about 58 percent of the population (a drop of nearly 10 percentage points since 2001). This insurance covers families of workers and their dependents but does not cover the cost of long-term care.
  • The public sector -- through Medicare at the federal level and Medicaid at the state level -- provides insurance for about 19 percent of the population, with services targeted to vulnerable persons including the poor, elderly and disabled. From FY 2007 to FY 2012, enrollment in Virginia's FAMIS/SCHIP program increased from 80,024 children to 110,149 children. Medicaid enrollment increased from 649,903 to 834,836 during the same period. The rate of Virginians dependent on Medicaid has increased from 8 to 11 percent over the past five years, thanks largely to the recent recession and continued slow job growth.
  • Nationally, about 7 percent of the population pays for medical insurance out of their own pockets. Nearly 18 percent of the population is uninsured.

What Influences the Health Insurance Rate?

Income Level: People with income at or below 200 percent of poverty -- in 2013 that equates to $22,980 for an individual -- are more than twice as likely to be uninsured as people at higher income levels.

Race and Ethnicity:  Racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to be insured than white Virginians.

Age: Young adults are at greater risk for being uninsured than children and older adults.

Employment Status: Unemployed individuals, part-time workers, and homemakers are at greater risk of being uninsured.

Firm Size: Employees of very small firms are typically at greater risk of being uninsured.

What is the State's Role?

Medicaid and FAMIS assist eligible Virginians. Teaching hospitals, state facilities, community health centers, and free clinics offer health care services either free or at a reduced rate. Considerable attention is still needed to achieve:

  • Improved access to health care services for the uninsured.
  • Population-based strategies that encourage healthier living for all segments of the population.
  • Strategies for improving the quality of care delivered by various health care providers.
  • Policies that are geared towards more cost-effective delivery of services for aged and disabled Medicaid recipients.
Page last modified May 01, 2014
Uninsured Rates for Health Insurance, by State Uninsured Rates for Health Insurance, by Virginia Region

State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.

Data and Definitions

State Data: CDC Historic Health Insurance Tables

Regional Data: U.S. Census Bureau, Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE)
SAHIE estimates for 2008-2010 for the first time incorporate data on health insurance coverage and income group distributions from the American Community Survey (ACS), resulting in improved precision.

Virginia Department of Social Services Annual Statistical Report

Virginia Health Care Foundation, Statistics and Information

See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.

At a Glance:
Health Insurance in Virginia

Performance Trend: Trend is maintaining.
State Influence:  

National Ranking: Based on U.S. Census estimates, 14.2% of Virginia residents under age 65 were uninsured in 2012, ranking the state16th nationally. The national average is 17.7%.

Virginia by region: Within Virginia's regions, the percentage of uninsured residents ranges from 12.4% to 17.7%.

State Programs & Initiatives

Authorized under Title XIX of the Social Security Act, Medicaid is a public healthcare program financed by states and the federal government. In Virginia, Medicaid and family health programs are administered by the Department of Medical Assistance Services.

Eligibility for Medicaid is determined by the Department of Social Services (DSS). For a list of other medical assistance programs available through DSS, go to their website.

FAMIS logo

FAMIS -- which stands for Family Access to Medical Insurance Security -- is Virginia's program to help eligible families provide health insurance for their children. Other programs within FAMIS cover pregnant mothers and dental care.

Additional Information logo

Provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) are expected to make significant improvements in the number of uninsured Americans. Modeled after the plans implemented in Massachusetts (the national leader in covered residents since 2007), state and/or federal "exchanges" where citizens and businesses may shop for healthcare plans have become active. Learn more at If you would like to explore options without using the federal site, check out the The Health Sherpa or the Kaiser Family Foundation: The first allows you to instantly explore plans available in your zip code and potential subsidy amounts; the latter offers extensive, up-to-date consumer resources.

The Virginia Health Care Foundation works to improve the lives and health of Virginia's uninsured by helping to make primary health care more available to uninsured and medically underserved Virginians.

To see how Virginia's localities stack up on access to health care and a number of other health factors and outcomes, visit County Health Rankings.