An estimated 9.2 percent or about 276,000 Connecticut residents under the age of 65 lacked health insurance in 2012 and only 3.6 percent or 29,000 children under the age of 18 went without it last year.
Connecticut Voices for Children, a public policy think tank that analyzed the data Tuesday, attributed the improvement in the uninsurance rate to the success of state and federal policy reforms aimed at improving access.
However, analysts said a one-year drop in the number of uninsured can’t be considered statistically significant. Experts say a two-year average should be used to determine whether a statistic is significant.
Based on the two-year average, the number of uninsured decreased from 12.7 percent in 2009-10 to 9.5 percent in 2011-12. Among children under the age of 18, the average dropped from 6.5 percent in 2009-10 to 4.5 percent in 2011-12. Analysts at Connecticut Voices for Children determined that the drop was statistically significant.
“These trends demonstrate the success of Connecticut’s efforts to improve access to health coverage for Connecticut children and families, even as our economy is struggling to recover,” Ellen Shemitz, executive director of Connecticut Voices for Children, said Tuesday. “In 2014, additional state and federal health reforms will enable thousands more Connecticut residents to gain affordable health insurance coverage.”
Most of the increase in coverage may be attributed to the expansion of the state’s Low-Income Adults Medicaid program. In 2010, Connecticut was the first state to expand that portion of Medicaid that previously had been solely funded by the state. In three years, enrollment in the program has doubled from 45,000 to more than 90,000. The state now receives partial reimbursement for the program from the federal government.
In order to qualify for Low-Income Adults Medicaid, an individual must be making 55 percent or less of the federal poverty level. As of May 2013, there were 90,157 individuals enrolled in the program, according to the Department of Social Services.
That number is expected to rise Jan. 1, 2014, because the federal poverty level for the program will increase to 138 percent under the Affordable Care Act. One hundred percent of the cost of that program will be paid for with federal dollars, but in the future the state will begin picking up about 10 percent of the costs.
Another reason the number of uninsured declined was a 2009 law that enabled 18- to 26-year-old individuals to stay on their parents’ health plans for a year before the federal government followed Connecticut in implementing a similar coverage policy. Also, since 2007 state policymakers have expanded eligibility for parents and pregnant women in the HUSKY program. As a result of that expansion the program saw increased enrollment of about 90,000 between July 2009 and July 2013.
In 2014, it’s expected that the number of residents with insurance will increase even further when the Affordable Care Act is implemented. Starting on Jan. 1, 2014, regardless of employment status or pre-existing medical conditions, all residents will be able to purchase insurance through a virtual marketplace called an exchange. Connecticut’s exchange is called Access Health CT.
An estimated 100,000 to 130,000 Connecticut residents are expected to gain coverage because of the Access Health CT initiative.
“Our state’s reduction in the number of people without health insurance is a tribute not only to the strength of the social safety net, but also the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” Frances G. Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut said Tuesday. “Since 2010 we have reduced the number of uninsured residents in Connecticut by 100,000. This is a huge step forward for us as we prepare for the new health insurance exchange open enrollment period starting next month.”
Nationally, the percentage of all Americans without health insurance declined from 15.7 percent in 2011 to 15.4 percent in 2012, with the number of the uninsured statistically unchanged at 48 million.
The Census Bureau’s “Current Population Survey” released today included some information about income levels and poverty rates, but more concise poverty estimates will be released Thursday when it unveils the results of its “American Community Survey.”