PA’s Health Insurance Coverage Rates Still Below Pre-recession Levels

Sharon Ward |

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) show that Pennsylvanians have not made up for health insurance coverage lost during the Great Recession. It is also a big reminder that Pennsylvania needs an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act now more than ever.

In 2011-12, 13.3% of Pennsylvanians under the age of 65 were uninsured, up from 10.7% in 2006-07. The share of Pennsylvania children without insurance, 7.7%, is statistically unchanged over the six-year period. The total number of uninsured Pennsylvanians grew by 305,000 over this period.

Too many Pennsylvanians remain without health insurance and at risk of catastrophic illness or injury. Governor Corbett is taking the right step in pursuing a Medicaid expansion, but the timetable should be accelerated so that coverage can begin in 2014.

Let’s take a closer look at the Census data out today. (We use two-year averages to allow for valid comparisons across states and over time. State and sub-state data on median income, poverty, and health insurance will be available on Thursday when the Census Bureau releases the American Community Survey.)

Health coverage obtained through an employer remains substantially below pre-recession levels, according to our analysis of the Census report. Only 64.6% of non-elderly Pennsylvanians had employment-based insurance in 2011-12, down from 70.8% in 2006-07, while the share of children covered by an employer dropped from 67.5% to 61.9%.

Fewer Workers Are Receiving Health Care from Their Employers

Employment-based coverage rates remain higher in Pennsylvania than in the U.S., with 58.4% of non-elderly Americans having coverage through an employer.

Enrollment in Medicaid grew both nationally and in Pennsylvania during the recession, although growth was more robust for the nation as a whole. Between 2006-07 and 2011-12, non-elderly Medicaid coverage grew 4% nationally and by 3.4% in the commonwealth.

While the nation made progress on insurance coverage between 2009-10 and 2011-12, Pennsylvania did not. At the federal level, the uninsured rate declined slightly during that period, from 18.3% to 18%, and there were statistically significant changes in children’s coverage and in the share of Americans covered by Medicaid. Pennsylvania, meanwhile, saw no statistically significant change in any of those three categories.

While the Uninsured Rate Begins to Decline at the National level, PA's Rate Is Unchanged Since the End of the Recession

Pennsylvania has a strong tradition of health insurance coverage, through employers and public programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid, and adultBasic. The Affordable Care Act offers a new option for Pennsylvanians in January 2014, with subsidized health care for individuals and families earning between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level ($19,530 to $78,120 for a family of three). Individuals between 50% and 100% of poverty with earnings of $5,745 to $11,490 will have no affordable option without Medicaid expansion.

The Governor’s “Healthy Pennsylvania” plan has the potential to continue Pennsylvania’s strong health care tradition by extending coverage to more than 600,000 Pennsylvanians. A high quality, affordable plan that begins without delay and offers comprehensive care to individuals who have lacked insurance will restore peace of mind to those still reeling from the recession and help to rebuild Pennsylvania’s economy.

Pennsylvanians who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot get affordable health insurance through their jobs will also be able to obtain coverage in 2014 through the state’s new health insurance Marketplace. Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians will be eligible for new federal subsidies to help them pay their premiums and reduce their out-of-pocket health costs.