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/.
Two weeks ago, children’s health advocates from across the country came together in Washington, DC for the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families Annual Conference. The conference provides an excellent opportunity for national and state advocates to share their experiences and learn from one another. This year’s conference theme was “Clear Skies or Foggy Times Ahead for Child and Family Coverage?” Topics included the future of children’s health coverage, strengthening and expanding Medicaid, and improving the quality and delivery of children’s health services.
We heard from experts in the field about the impact of perception, race, and bias on Medicaid, avenues for improving network adequacy, and the final Medicaid managed care regulations and what they mean for children and families.
HCFANY’s Children, Youth, and Families Task Force represented New York consumer advocates at the conference. HCFANY’s Elisabeth Benjamin, Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Community Service Society of New York, spoke on a panel that explored the means by which advocates can work to improve access to care in both public and private coverage programs.
Last week, The Atlantic published an article entitled “The Unconscionable Difficulty of Getting Health Insurance for a Newborn.” The article tells the story of contributing writer Ester Bloom and her difficulties getting immediate Child Health Plus (CHP) insurance coverage for her newborn son. Coverage for Bloom’s son did not begin until six weeks after his birth, and in the interim she instead had to pay for much more expensive individual coverage through the Marketplace.
However, the original article neglected to mention the passage of Bill S4745/A7155 in December of 2015, which allows babies born into low and middle-income families eligible for Child Health Plus from the day they are born. Under this law, which takes effect January 1, 2017, parents who apply before the baby is born, or within 60 days of birth, will have CHP coverage for the newborn from the date of birth. Those who submit an application more than 60 days after the birth will be covered from the date of application. This law addresses the 45 day gap between parent application and newborn enrollment in CHP that Bloom describes in the article. For more details please see HCFANY’s original blog post from December 28, 2015.
We were excited to see a correction published on June 21, which included information about the law and how it will improve coverage for newborns under CHP.
This article also highlights the many challenges that consumers face when navigating the health insurance system as well as the importance of the trained assistance that health care Navigators, Certified Application Counselors, and Community Health Advocates can provide. New York State has been a leader in offering consumer assistance through these programs.
Parents who would like to enroll a child in CHP can do so through the New York State of Health Marketplace or by connecting to the Community Service Society Navigator Network at (888) 614-5400 or through their website.