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Gaining health insurance nationally, not in Washington


Despite the difficult economy, more Americans have health insurance than a year ago, according to newly released census data. One reason: the new “Obamacare” law allows young adults, up to age 26, to stay on their parents’ insurance. Many others qualified for government programs in 2011, such as Medicaid and Medicare.

The pattern is different, though, in Washington state.

Young adults were given the right to join their parents plans back in 2007, so there was no sudden boost in 2011. Meanwhile, 27,000 people were forced, by budget cuts, off of the state’s Basic Health Plan.

And the decade-long trend continues, of people losing private coverage.

“People are dropping their insurance because can no longer afford the cost,” says Stephanie Marquis of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s. “If they get employer-sponsored health care, either the employer is dropping the coverage, or they're being laid-off from their jobs and, therefore, no longer have health insurance.”

Overall, about 51,000 people in Washington lost coverage last year.

The Insurance Commissioner’s office predicts people will continue to lose coverage until the federal health law takes full effect – which is supposed to be in 2014.

Other highlights from the US Census "2012 Current Population Survey (CPS)" regarding health insurance:

  • The number of people with health insurance increased to 260.2 million in 2011 from 256.6 million in 2010, as did the percentage of people with health insurance (84.3 percent in 2011, 83.7 percent in 2010).
  • The percentage of people covered by private health insurance in 2011 was not statistically different from 2010, at 63.9 percent. This was the first time in the last 10 years that the rate of private health insurance coverage has not decreased. The percentage covered by employment-based health insurance in 2011 was not statistically different from 2010, at 55.1 percent.
  • The percentage of people covered by government health insurance increased from 31.2 percent to 32.2 percent. The percentage covered by Medicaid increased from 15.8 percent in 2010 to 16.5 percent in 2011. The percentage covered by Medicare also rose over the period, from 14.6 percent to 15.2 percent. The percentage covered by Medicaid in 2011 was higher than the percentage covered by Medicare.
  • In 2011, 9.7 percent of children under 19 (7.6 million) were without health insurance. Neither estimate is significantly different from the corresponding 2010 estimate. The uninsured rate also remained statistically unchanged for those age 26 to 34 and people age 45 to 64. It declined, however, for people age 19 to 25, age 35 to 44 and those age 65 and older.
Keith Seinfeld has been KPLU’s Health & Science Reporter since 2001, and prior to that covered the Environment beat. He’s been a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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