Census Bureau data released today show historic gains in health insurance coverage across the nation. In contrast, the proportion of Utahns with health insurance coverage improved more modestly, from 14.0% in 2013 to 12.5% in 2014.
The data released today are the first Census data to show the effects of major coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In 2013, before full implementation of the ACA, Utah’s 14.0% uninsured rate was similar to the national uninsured rate of 14.5%. In 2014, after major ACA coverage expansions took effect, the uninsured rate in the United States dropped to 11.7% while 12.5% of Utahns remained uninsured. The percent of Americans in poverty without health insurance dropped by 9.3% in states that expanded Medicaid and only by 4.8% among impoverished Americans in states that did not expand Medicaid.
“If Utah had accepted Medicaid expansion dollars, the state wouldn’t have fallen behind,” said Jessie Mandle of Voices for Utah Children. “We’re excited that lawmakers have a proposal to expand health insurance coverage during a special session this fall. We hope the legislature will hurry and finish the job so that thousands of low-income Utahns still can get the healthcare they need to stay productive in the workforce and take care of their kids.”
Although Utah hasn’t accepted Medicaid expansion dollars, other provisions of the Affordable Care Act are helping to reduce the number of Utahns without health insurance, which is why Utah did have a small increase in people with healthcare. Some Utahns receive federal subsidies through the ACA to help them pay health insurance premiums. However, a family of four who makes less than $32,500/year is too poor to qualify. Medicaid expansion dollars are intended to help such low-income Utahns, but the Utah legislature must first accept the funds.