Massachusetts has had as rough of a go at Obamacare as nearly any state, launching a state that worked even worse than Healthcare.gov. At the same time, the Bay State appears to have pulled off an impressive feat: it appears to have lowered the uninsured rate to nearly zero. Martha Bebinger of local radio station WBUR reports:
Between December 2013 and March of this year, the number of Massachusetts residents signed up for health coverage increased by more than 215,000. If that number holds true over time, it will mean the percentage of Massachusetts residents who lack coverage has dropped to less than 1 percent.
Massachusetts has long had the lowest uninsured rate in the nation since it passed its universal coverage law in 2006. But its always hovered a few percentage-points above zero. In 2011, 3.9 percent of Massachusetts residents lacked insurance coverage. One report found that Massachusetts' uninsured tended to be more male and low-income compared to those with coverage.
The data is still preliminary, and observers are waiting to see whether some of the people who gained coverage this winter actually stick with their new plans. As to why the Affordable Care Act would raise insurance rates in a state that has had nearly a decade of universal coverage, Bebinger, a long-time Romneycare observer, has a few thoughts:
First, there was a big federal enrollment campaign in the fall and spring that might have caught people's attention.
Second, more residents are eligible for free coverage or subsidized help with premiums under the new federal insurance law.
Third, most of those who were still uninsured in Massachusetts at the end of 2013 were low-income workers who could not afford premiums under an employer's plan. Under the previous Massachusetts health care law (enacted under then-Gov. Mitt Romney), workers were not allowed to sign up for state-subsidized insurance if they had access to a health plan through work. The federal law lifts that restriction.
Update: Josh Archambault emails to point out that Massachusetts does still have about 200,000 people on temporary health insurance plans, a product of the state's botched Obamacare rollout. The state has not yet determined whether those people will qualify for insurance subsidies and its possible, if they don't, that these people will not stay in their coverage.