Guest blog by Lois Uttley, MPP, Director of Raising Women’s Voices-NY. Six years after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law and three years after the ACA insurance marketplaces opened, the nation’s uninsured rate has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded. Between 2010 and 2016, the percentage of people without health insurance fell by nearly half, from 16 percent to 8.6 percent. The sharp decline is illustrated in this chart from Vox. The previous low of 9.1 percent was recorded in 2015.
The new numbers were released last week by the National Center for Health Statistics, and are based on the National Interview Survey conducted during the first quarter of 2016. The survey uncovered some important variations among population groups when it comes to health insurance. For example:
- Only 5 percent of children 17 and younger are now uninsured. Of those, 42.1 percent had public coverage and 54.9 percent had private coverage.
- Hispanic adults had the greatest decline in un-insurance, going from 40.6 percent in 2013 to 24.5 percent in 2016. But that reduced rate was still much higher than the 2016 rates for non-Hispanic Black (13 percent), white (8.4 percent) and Asian adults (6.7 percent).
States Fully Implementing the ACA Show Biggest Drop In Uninsured
The national survey data also reveal striking disparities between rates of un-insurance in states like New York that have fully implemented the ACA – by expanding their Medicaid programs and creating their own health insurance exchanges, or marketplaces – and those that have refused to do so because of conservative political opposition.
First, let’s look at the impact of a state’s decision to expand Medicaid. In the expansion states, the percentage of uninsured adults (ages 18 to 64) dropped by half — from 18.4 percent in 2013 to 9.2 percent in 2016. By contrast, in non-expansion states, the uninsured rate fell somewhat – from 22.7 percent in 2013 to 16.7 percent in 2016 — but still remained high.
Next, let’s look at the difference in uninsured rates between states that opened their own marketplace (or partnered with the federal government to create a marketplace) and those states that refused to do so, and instead defaulted to having a federally-run marketplace. There have been significant declines in uninsured rates in states with their own marketplaces (from 18.7 percent in 2013 to 9.1 percent in 2016) and in partnership marketplace states (from 17.9 percent in 2013 to 8.2 percent this year).
The survey found a different story in the states with federally-run marketplaces. Although even those states experience a drop in the uninsured rate (from 22 percent to 14.5 percent), the 2016 percentage of residents who remain uninsured is much higher than in the other states.
Once again New York is leading the nation as one of only two states to implement a Basic Health Plan (BHP). As of January 31, 379,599 New Yorkers enrolled in comprehensive, affordable coverage through the New York’s BHP, branded the Essential Plan, which launched in 2016. A few weeks ago, the NY State of Health (NYSOH) released its report on the third open enrollment period, which ran from November 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016. HCFANY is excited to see so many consumers gaining access to health care through the EP in its first year.
The EP is meeting an important need for consumers in New York, particularly for those with incomes between 138 and 200 of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Before the implementation of the Essential Plan, individuals at this income level would only have been eligible to purchase Qualified Health Plans (QHP) with financial assistance, and many continued to face financial barriers to coverage. With the EP, low- and moderate income individuals can now receive coverage comparable to that of a QHP for a premium of $0 or $20 and no annual deductible. The average consumer saves over $1,100 compared to QHP coverage. This increased affordability has resulted in high enrollment levels for EP eligible individuals. According to NYSOH’s open enrollment report, 98 percent of individuals determined to be eligible for the Essential Plan enrolled compared to only 58 percent of individuals eligible for QHP.
Essential Plan coverage is also available to individuals under age 65 with incomes below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) who are lawfully present in the United States, but have not met the five-year bar to qualify for Medicaid as well as lawfully present immigrants with incomes 138 to 200 percent of FPL.
Like Medicaid and Child Health Plus, individuals and families eligible for the EP can enroll throughout the year.
To enroll or learn more about the Essential Plan, contact NYSOH at (855)-355-5777 or www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov.You can also get free one-on-one help from a Navigator or Certified Application Counselor, certified by NY State of Health, who serves your area at http://info.nystateofhealth.ny.gov/IPANavigatorMap. Or contact Community Health Advocates at (888)-614-5400 or http://www.communityhealthadvocates.org/.
Here’s the quick summary of how we did:
Comprehensive coverage for immigrants
HCFANY Recommendation: Provide $10.3 million in State funding to offer Essential Plan (EP) to legal immigrants who are barred from federally-funded EP.
Full funding for Community Health Advocates (CHA)
HCFANY Recommendation: Provide $4 million in funding for CHA to help people with their insurance problems and access to health care problems, when they occur.
Result: The final budget included $3.25 million for CHA–$2.5 million from the Executive and $750,000 from the Assembly. Due to the intricacies of State contracting, this means that the CHA program faces an 18% cut from the past year.
Prior Approval of insurance plan rate increases
HCFANY Recommendation: Reject a Senate One House bill proposal to repeal the State’s right to review proposed insurance premium increases.
Health Guaranty Fund
HCFANY Recommendation: Support with modifications the Senate and Assembly stand-alone bill which sought to set up a Health Guaranty fund to reimburse providers in the wake of a health plan closing (e.g. Health Republic).
Result: The budget establishes a fund that will be financed through “settlement funds” to reimburse providers. The process for distributing the funds is unknown and it appears to include no public representation and/or public reporting on the distributions.
Medicaid beneficiary protections
HCFANY Recommendation: HCFANY opposed the following threats to Medicaid beneficiaries: elimination of spousal/parental refusal, reduction of resources that spouses of people in MLTC or nursing homes can keep, and the repeal of “prescriber prevails.”
Result: None of these proposals made the final budget. That means spousal/parental refusal remains intact, spouses of people in MLTC or nursing homes will not see a cut in the amount of resources they can keep, and “prescriber prevails” will continue to be available in Medicaid.
HCFANY leaders are heading to the State Capitol today to speak to legislative leaders about our 2016 Policy Agenda. Here are a few of HCFANY’s ideas for ways that New York can continue to build on our successes to increase access to affordable quality health care for all.
Comprehensive Coverage for All Immigrants: New York can offer Essential Plan (EP) coverage for the roughly 5,500 New Yorkers who are ineligible for federal EP funding because of their immigration status by allocating $10.3 million in state-only funding for next year. New York should also explore ways to cover all immigrants, including those who are undocumented.
Consumer Assistance: Community Health Advocates (CHA) helps New Yorkers understand, use and keep their insurance by providing a central, toll-free helpline and community and small business-serving agencies throughout the State. Last year, New York provided $3 million in funding for a 9-month period. This year, New York should provide $4 million to ensure a year-round CHA program.
Consumer Outreach: While New York has exceeded enrollment expectations, 8% of New Yorkers remain uninsured. New York should build on its success by providing $2 million in funding for outreach and education by community-based organizations (CBOs) and small business-serving groups to reach the remaining uninsured. You can read more about these ideas in HCFANY’s Legislative Agenda Policy Brief and HCFANY Health/Medicaid Testimony on the 2016-2017 NYS Executive Budget.