Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Census Data Shows BadgerCare Has Filled the Gap for Many Families and Individuals Who Lost their Job-Based Coverage Due to the Recession, However 504,000 Non-Elderly Wisconsinites Still Lack Insurance Coverage

As WCCF noted in a press release today, the U.S. Census bureau released the Current Population Survey (CPS) data this morning, showing that more Americans are living in poverty -- 46.2 million in 2010 -- than at any other time since the federal government began estimating poverty 52 years ago. The national poverty rate jumped from 14.3% in 2009 to 15.1% last year, the highest national poverty rate since 1993 and the fourth consecutive yearly increase. The child poverty rate rose from 20.7% in 2009 to 22.0% in 2010.

Though we mention it at the end of the release, the health insurance coverage data from the CPS is not insignificant. The recession and its aftermath have also reduced the number of people who are covered by employer-sponsored health care insurance. An estimated 504,000 non-elderly Wisconsinites (10.6%) lacked health insurance in 2009-10, according to the new CPS data, an increase of about 31,000 since 2007-08, when 9.8% were uninsured. (The Census Bureau averages two years of CPS data in order to make the estimates more reliable.)

Low-income families with incomes below $25,000 were hit especially hard.  Nationally, an estimated 846,000 more people in these low-income households were uninsured in 2010 than in 2009 (part of the story here is that the number of people with households incomes below this level increased by nearly 2 million). One of the goals of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to increase access to affordable coverage for these families, though the Health Insurance Exchanges and Medicaid expansion. In fact, one of the bright spots in the data was the decline in the number of young people (ages 18-24) without access to health insurance. This was likely due to the ACA’s expansion of coverage for this group in 2010.

In Wisconsin, BadgerCare Plus has filled the gap for many families and individuals who have lost their job-based coverage due to the recession. According to the CPS data, approximately 162,000 Wisconsinites under the age of 65 lost their employer-sponsored coverage from 2007-08 to 2009-10, but 102,000 gained Medicaid or BadgerCare Plus coverage, largely offsetting the loss of job-based coverage. This shows the importance of public coverage options like BadgerCare in difficult economic times.

As the Wisconsin State Journal reported yesterday, the state has yet to make public their plan to cut nearly $500 million in BadgerCare and Medicaid, as passed in the state budget. A WCCF paper outlines some of the potential implications of these changes; however, the CPS data shows that it will be particularly important to go through a robust public input process, to ensure that changes will not cause a further increase in the number of uninsured Wisconsinites.

Sara Eskrich

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