Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Utah health insurance coverage is improving

The Census Bureau Releases 2014 Small Area Health Insurance Estimates 


By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist 

“Poverty and no health insurance coverage keeps the doctor away — apples have nothing to do with it.” Beryl Dov 

The goals of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) include expanded health insurance coverage in the United States. Most of the Act’s health insurance expansion provisions went into effect January 1, 2014. The U.S. Census Bureau’s recently-released 2014 Small Area Health Insurance Estimates  provide an initial glimpse of the early outcomes of ACA on health insurance coverage. Keep in mind that health insurance coverage runs the gamut from employer-provided plans to personal insurance to government Medicaid and Medicare coverage. These estimates cover individuals under the age of 65, since those 65 and older are eligible for government-provided health insurance through Medicare.

Has health insurance coverage has expanded in the Beehive State? The percentage of individuals in Utah with health insurance coverage did increase between 2009 and 2014. In 2008, 83.7 percent of the population under age 65 had some sort of health insurance according to the Census Bureau estimates (based on the American Community Survey data). By 2014, coverage had increased by an additional 2.5 percentage points to measure 86.2 percent.


However, while most age groups showed expanding coverage, coverage for persons between 40 and 64 actually declined. In fact, coverage contracted by almost a full percentage point for those 50 to 64 years of age. On the other hand, young people under the age of 19 saw the strongest expansion in coverage.

Gains in the percentage of insured proved particularly strong for African Americans and Latinos. Coverage for black Utahns increased by 5 percentage points while Hispanics experienced a notable 8 percentage-point gain. In contrast, white (not Hispanic) coverage increased by only 1.8 percentage points between 2008 and 2014.

Males (up 2.7 points) were slightly more likely than females (up 2.2 points) to experience an increase in the insured share of the population. Latino males experienced the strongest expansion, the percent of insured rose 9.1 percentage points between 2008 and 2014.

The Census Bureau provides health-insurance categories ranging from at-or-below-138 percent of poverty to at-or-below-400 percent of poverty. Those with the lowest incomes experienced the greatest increase in coverage (up 6.6 points). However, lower-income individuals are still insured at a lower rate than their higher-income peers. For example, only 73.6 percent of those at or below 138 percent of poverty are insured compared to 86.2 percent of the general population.

Counties in the northern part of the state tend to show the highest shares of insured individuals. In 2014, Morgan, Davis, Box Elder, Tooele and Utah counties all showed insured shares of 88 percent or higher. On the opposite end of the scale, many counties in central and southern Utah showed low insured rates. In Piute, San Juan, Washington, Millard and Sanpete counties, 81 percent or less of the population under the age of 65 had health insurance.

While most counties shared in the state’s increasing health insurance coverage, Carbon, Millard, Piute and Summit counties all showed a slight decrease in the share of insured individuals less than 65 years of age. However, the estimated declines are well within the margin of error for these counties, which suggests that coverage might not have declined at all. In general, the largest increases in health insurance coverage occurred in small counties — Daggett, Beaver, Grand, Kane, Morgan and San Juan counties.

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