OP-ED | Covering CT’s Uninsured: How Did We Do?
The long-awaited Census numbers are out and Connecticut did a fair job of covering the uninsured last year. While there have been early reports on Connecticut’s progress, the Census is the gold standard.
According to the Census, Connecticut had 88,000 fewer uninsured in 2014 than the year before, dropping our uninsured rate from 9.4 percent to 6.9 percent. But that still leaves about a quarter of a million state residents without coverage. Other states did better but, in fairness, we were ahead of them to start.
The Affordable Care Act gave states historic opportunities to expand coverage beginning January 1, 2014 and Connecticut embraced every option. We took advantage of an exceptional bargain, expanding Medicaid to all low-income adults, whether or not they are parents, with 100 percent federal funding that only lowers over time to 90 percent. We also created our own state-based health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, offering subsidized insurance coverage based on income and serious resources for marketing. We had every advantage.
As expected with the expansion, the drop in the number of uninsured last year was more than balanced by an increase in Medicaid enrollment and, to a lesser extent, more people directly purchasing coverage. Medicaid enrollment has been growing every year for over a decade, but the increase last year was more than three times the average annual increase over the last decade.
Thankfully, worries that the ACA’s expansion would cause employers to drop coverage were unfounded. While employer-sponsored coverage in Connecticut dropped slightly last year, that has been happening for over a decade. In fact, last year’s drop was actually less than the average annual drop over the previous fourteen years. The ACA’s employer mandate didn’t become effective until this year.
As in the past, Connecticut’s uninsured remain largely low income, young adults with less education. Fairfield County had the highest uninsured rate in the state as in the past. Non-citizens in Connecticut, many of whom are not eligible for either Medicaid or subsidized coverage through Access Health CT, are at the highest risk of being uninsured.
The good news is that half of Connecticut’s remaining uninsured are eligible for subsidized coverage. One in four uninsured are eligible for Medicaid based on income, with excellent coverage, expanded eligibility, high quality care and improving access. Another one in four are eligible for subsidized health insurance through Access Health CT. However even with subsidies, those premiums are still too high for many working families.
The bottom line is that Connecticut made progress last year toward covering uninsured state residents, but we have a lot of room to improve and we have the resources to make it happen.
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