Medicaid expansion states see big drop in uninsured rates among workers — falls 21 percent in Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Medicaid expansion states see big drop in uninsured rates among workers — falls 21 percent in Arkansas

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 12:18 PM

click to enlarge VIA FAMILIES USA
  • Via Families USA

A new study out from Families USA finds that states that have gone forward with the Medicaid expansion have seen dramatic drops in the percentage of working citizens who are uninsured: 

Compared to 2013, the number of workers who were uninsured in 2014 declined in virtually every state, but the overall rate of decline was substantially higher in states that expanded Medicaid.

* States that expanded Medicaid saw, on average, a 25 percent reduction in the number of residents who were working but uninsured.

* In states that chose not to expand Medicaid, the average reduction was 13 percent.

* The average percent reduction across expansion states was nearly twice the percent reduction across non-expansion states.
 
Arkansas, of course, is one of the states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, via the state's unique private option. Worth noting, given the governor's focus on work, how effective Medicaid expansion has been in making sure that low-wage workers have health insurance. The uninsured rate among citizens who are employed fell by 21 percent in Arkansas between 2013 and 2014, the study finds. 

Nineteen states have refused the billions in federal money to expand Medicaid, leaving 3 million Americans in a coverage gap. Many of them have jobs but no affordable options for health care, the study notes: 

Low-income, working adults in non-expansion states have few options for affordable health insurance, especially if they do not have job-based coverage. Many of these adults cannot afford to buy insurance in the health insurance marketplaces because they earn too little to qualify for premium tax credits (premium tax credits are available only to individuals with incomes above the federal poverty level).

This leaves a large number of low-income residents in nearly every non-expansion state, including many working adults, in what is called the “coverage gap.” These residents do not qualify for Medicaid (either because they do not have dependent children or because they earn too much), but they earn too little to be eligible for the tax credits that would help them afford marketplace coverage. Most of these individuals are left with no option for affordable health insurance. 

No state has seen a bigger drop in the uninsured rate overall than Arkansas, where it has fallen more than 60 percent since Obamacare's major coverage provisions were implemented in 2014. 

Before the PO and Obamacare, in 2013, a shocking one in four adults in Arkansas between the ages of 19 and 64 were without insurance. I thought it was revealing that during the debate over the original PO, then state Rep. Bruce Westerman described his opposition to expansion as the "do nothing" option. Indeed. Those opposing the PO, and those lobbying to repeal Obamacare, would have Arkansas return to the landscape of 2013, with one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation. 

If the legislature fails to continue the private option when it convenes for a special session in April, the progress would be reversed and the uninsured rate in the state would likely double. That includes many working Arkansans, people like Anita Bacon

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