“Ga. uninsured rate improves, but still ranks among the highest”

By TOM CRAWFORD | Published: SEPTEMBER 18, 2015

The percentage of Georgians without health insurance declined in 2014, as it did in most other states, an improvement that was attributed to a stronger economy and the availability of coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The uninsured rate declined from 18.8 percent in 2013 to 15.8 percent in 2014, according to a report issued by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Georgia still ranks among the top ten states that have the highest percentage of uninsured residents, however, and is surpassed only by Texas, Alaska and Florida.

“Georgia’s uninsured rate is still well above the national average, and our safety net providers continue to struggle to provide care to all of the uninsured residents in our state,” said Beth Stephens, the health access program director for the consumer advocacy organization Georgia Watch.

The Census Bureau report lists these states with the highest uninsured rates in 2014:

·         Texas, 19.1 percent

·         Alaska, 17.2 percent

·         Florida, 16.6 percent

·         Georgia, 15.8 percent

·         Oklahoma, 15.4 percent

·         Nevada, 15.2 percent

·         Louisiana, 14.8 percent

·         Mississippi, 14.5 percent

·         New Mexico, 14.5 percent

·         Montana, 14.2 percent

Nationally, the Census report said the percentage of Americans without health insurance coverage declined by 2.9 percent in 2014.

The major factor cited by the Census Bureau was the fact that many of the ACA’s major provisions took full effect in 2014, including the expansion of Medicaid coverage in states that accepted federal funds for that purpose and the availability of subsidized coverage through ACA health insurance exchanges.

While there is a health insurance exchange in each state, Georgia is one of the state that turned down federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income families. That decision by Gov. Nathan Deal cost Georgia more than $3 billion in federal funds in both 2014 and 2015.

“The most important reason Georgia’s uninsured rate remains one of the worst in the U.S. is our failure to expand Medicaid,” said Bill Custer, director of the Center for Health Services Research at Georgia State University.

“Georgia’s uninsured rate remains among the nation’s highest and our health outcomes among the nation’s poorest because we haven’t used all of the tools in our toolbox,” said Cindy Zeldin, director of Georgians for a Healthy Future.

“Other states like Kentucky that have expanded Medicaid and placed a deliberate focus on prevention are starting to see big results, and Georgia risks falling behind the now 30 and counting states that have created a pathway to coverage for all of their citizens,” Zeldin said.

Even with the expansion of Medicaid and the impact of the ACA, a majority of insured Americans receive their coverage through their employer rather than the government.

According to the Census report, employer-based insurance covered 55.4 percent of the population, followed by Medicaid (19.5 percent), Medicare (16.0 percent), direct purchase insurance (14.6 percent), and military coverage (4.5 percent).

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

You can find the original story in Tom Crawford’s Georgia Report here.