St. John has the highest rate of uninsured individuals in the US Virgin Islands (Government of the US Virgin Islands, 2010) and a rate almost 5 times more than the national average. Our survey showed 72% of St. John residents do not have health insurance that covers primary care services and 56% of residents have no health insurance at all. In conjunction, over 70% of residents have delayed or avoided healthcare when needed while living on St. John primarily due to high costs and inability to pay. This, in turn, often makes for worsening conditions, more extensive and expensive treatments, higher rates of morbidities and mortalities and a community not as healthy as it should be.
There are extremely limited options for health insurance as private insurance and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 are not available in the US Virgin Islands. This leaves employer offered insurance as the only option for residents and most employers do not offer coverage due to the logistics of it or if they do it is extremely expensive. As a result, most residents pay out of pocket for healthcare.
Many uninsured individuals are active members of the community such as servers, bartenders, boat captains and crew, retail personnel and manual laborers who work hard to keep the tourism industry thriving and the community strong. With access to affordable healthcare, these individuals can be healthier, leading to more productive workforce and a flourishing infrastructure.
Benefits will extend beyond the families and individuals that receive services through the Island Health and Wellness Center. Such benefits include a reduction in the inappropriate use of hospital emergency rooms, a reduction in medical debt for both individuals and providers, a healthier community workforce, and an improved quality of life for St. John residents.