Uninsured statistics in Conn. drop

The share of Connecticut residents without access to health insurance has dropped significantly in recent years, according to census data from the most recent Current Population Survey (CPS).

Economists and policy analysts interviewed said that Connecticut’s improvement came largely through the implementation of federal and state policies aimed at improving access to health care. The findings, which are part of a larger nationwide report on trends in health insurance, poverty and income, show that the percentage of Connecticut citizens under the age of 65 without access to health insurance dropped from 12.7 percent in the 2009–2010 two-year period, to 9.5 percent in 2011–2012.

Across the nation, the uninsured rate dropped slightly from 15.7 percent to 15.4 percent, but it was not a statistically significant drop according to the Census Bureau. Most of the decrease in Connecticut’s uninsured rate can be attributed to the expansion of Health for UninSured Kids (HUSKY) — Connecticut’s Medicaid program — as well as the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, said David Dearborn, the communications director for Connecticut’s Department of Social Services.

“In the last few years, Connecticut has allowed previously ineligible groups like low-income adults without children to access HUSKY for the first time,” Dearborn said, adding that the state legislature has also increased income eligibility for parents and pregnant women in HUSKY. “These measures are the real drivers of this decline,” Dearborn said.

The percentage of Connecticut residents who were covered by HUSKY grew from 9.9 percent in 2009 to 15.7 percent in 2012, while the Medicare coverage rate also ticked upwards from 14.7 percent to 15.7 percent.

The drop in uninsured state residents came in spite of a decrease in employer based insurance. This decrease can be attributed to Connecticut’s sluggish economic climate. The state continues to struggle with high unemployment and a tepid economic recovery.

“The economy’s been lousy and that’s led to firms switching formerly full-time workers to part-time work so that they’re no longer eligible for the company’s health insurance plan,” said Rexford Santerre, a healthcare economist at the University of Connecticut.

Santerre pointed to the drop in Connecticut’s employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) rate from 67.5 percent in 2009 to 64.3 percent in 2012 as a continuation of what he said is a long-term trend. According to the non-profit advocacy organization Connecticut Voices for Children, 78 percent of Connecticut residents under 65 had employer-based health coverage between the years 2000 and 2001. By 2011–’12, that number had declined to 64.3 percent.

If the ESI rate continues to fall, government programs will need to continue growing to cover the gap, said Sharon Langer, a senior policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children. She added that the ongoing implementation of the ACA will be the next major opportunity for low-income residents to obtain health care insurance. By further expanding HUSKY coverage for low-income adults and providing more affordable private coverage, the Affordable Care Act will provide coverage for between 100,000 and 130,000 state residents, Langer said.

Among children in Connecticut under the age of 18, the share without health insurance declined from 6.5 percent in 2009–2010 to 4.5 percent in 2011–2012.

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