Study: Access to insurance improves community ties

Health insurance, pen and stethoscope
Access to health insurance may strengthen the bonds within communities, while a lack of coverage may contribute to fraying ties, according to a new study. (Getty/Minerva Studio)

Access to health insurance may strengthen the bonds within communities, while a lack of coverage can contribute to fraying ties, according to a new study.

The research, which was published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, examined the relationship between social cohesion and uninsured rates in Los Angeles County, California. The study team found that its social cohesion scores decreased by 34% between the community with the fewest uninsured people and the community with the most.

The study was conducted using data recorded in two Los Angeles and Family Neighborhood surveys between 2000 and 2002, and between 2006 and 2008, along with data from the Census Bureau. Information on more than 1,100 participants was used, including both adults and children.

The team used several analysis models to compare social cohesion before and after the Affordable Care Act was passed, and researchers said their findings are especially important as plans to repeal the healthcare law heat up.

“Given the strain that uninsurance places on individuals, providers and healthcare markets, it is not unreasonable to imagine that the consequences of uninsurance are likely to go beyond health and health care and impact the social lives of individuals and communities,” Tara McKay, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University and study co-author, said in an announcement of the findings.

McKay said that people living in communities with lower rates of uninsured residents were more likely to have shared goals and values with their neighbors, according to the announcement, and that communities with higher numbers of uninsured people had lower trust and more strained relationships.

The study adds to mounting concern about the effects of a repeal of the ACA, particularly if there’s no plan to replace it. A repeal of the law through budget reconciliation is one of the first plans on the docket for a Republican-controlled Congress, but experts have warned that such a repeal could leave millions uninsured and could create a fiscal cliff with no replacement plan in place. Even some Republicans are calling into question plans for a quick repeal with a delayed plan for replacement.

The study authors released a video that looks more in-depth at the results, which is included below:


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