Uninsured rate falls to record low of 8.8%

Frederick Owens
September 13, 2017

Pennsylvania's uninsured rate from 6.4 percent in 2015 to 5.6 percent in 2016, the lowest on record, the Wolf administration announced Wednesday, citing Census numbers.

When Obama took office in 2009, during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, more than 50 million (PDF) Americans were uninsured, or almost 17% of the population.

But Vance Ginn, senior economist for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, said states with expanded Medicaid coverage do not necessarily improve residents' health outcomes. Florida could cover more than 500,000 more residents with Medicaid expansion.

The U.S. Census found the overall percentage of insured Americans increased by about 4 percentage points since 2013 and more than 3 percentage points insured by a private health plan, which is mostly due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans and individual mandate that requires most Americans to have health insurance. But the maps also underscore that the recent gains in health insurance coverage under the ACA have not been consistent nationally.

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The law gives states the option of expanding Medicaid to low-income people. These findings suggest the need for continued and more equitable insurance expansion efforts to eliminate health insurance disparities.

For expansion states, the uninsured rate ranged from 2.5 percent in MA to 14 percent in Alaska. In those states, all legal residents whose incomes are less than 138 percent of the federal poverty rate are eligible to enroll in Medicaid.

Different organizations have come up with different estimates for the level of health insurance coverage in MA, but all agree that the state has been a leader in coverage. Census' report for that year showed that 10.4 percent of Americans, or 33 million people, still lacked insurance. According to the data, 55.7% of people get insurance from their employers, while 19.4% are covered by Medicaid and 16.7% by Medicare. The U.S. uninsured rate fell 0.8 percentage points over the year, which was considered statistically significant.

White people had the lowest uninsured rate of any ethnicity at 6.3%. By 2016, most of the US states had uninsured rates below 10 percent. "The uninsured rates for Blacks and Asians were higher than for non-Hispanic Whites, at 10.5 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively", Census said. Like the Minnesota's 1332 proposal, Oregon's proposal would reinsure claims that exceeded an attachment point at a specified percentage rate up to a cap, instead of reinsuring cases with particular conditions as Alaska will do in its 1332 waiver program. "Hispanics had the highest uninsured rate, at 16.0 percent", according to the report.

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