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Uninsured Rate Fell in 20 States Last Year

The share of residents without health coverage fell in 20 states last year, Census data released yesterday show, while rising in just one.  As our analysis (with state-by-state data) explains, the improvements mostly reflect greater private coverage among young adults — helped by a health reform provision allowing them to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 — and enrollment increases in public programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).


Last week, the Census Bureau announced that the number of uninsured Americans fell by 1.3 million in 2011 and the share of Americans without health insurance fell from 16.3 percent to 15.7 percent, the largest single-year drop since 1999.  Yesterday’s data come from a different Census survey, the American Community Survey, which allows for more detailed state-level analysis than last week’s data.  But the findings from the two surveys are consistent.

The new data also show that:

  • In 34 states, the share of 18- to 24-year-olds with private coverage rose in 2011.
  • In 30 states, the share of people enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP rose in 2011.

For those states that did not see a reduction in the uninsured, it appears that the gains in private coverage among young adults and/or the increases in public program enrollment could only offset — rather than more than offset — the continued overall erosion of employer-sponsored insurance. Missouri was the only state whose uninsured rate rose in 2011.  The gain in private coverage among young adults there could not offset the larger decline in private coverage among adults aged 25 to 64, while Medicaid and CHIP enrollment remained steady.