Census: County’s uninsured cut in half by Affordable Care Act

EVERETT — The percentage of working-age Snohomish County residents without health insurance dropped by half in the first two years after the federal health care law went into effect, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.

The uninsured rate dropped from 14.5 to 7 percent between the end of 2013 and the end of 2015.

Snohomish County had plenty of company across the country. The uninsured rate for adults under age 65 decreased in 71.3 percent of the nation’s counties from 2014 to 2015, according to the Census Bureau.

The statistics were released the week after President Trump and Republicans in Congress agreed to withdraw a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. There is still talk about trying to come up with different legislation.

Washington state’s rate of working-age uninsured continues to drop, said Stephanie Marquis, a spokeswoman with the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

The latest statewide — from 2016 — is 5.8 percent.

The main reason for that is the increasing numbers of childless adults enrolling in a Medicaid expansion program. That number now exceeds 600,000 in the state and 11 million nationwide.

“It is the single biggest driver,” Marquis said.

Roughly 700,000 Washington residents would have lost their health coverage if the Affordable Care Act was repealed, according to state estimates.

How much more the rate of uninsured could decline is hard to predict.

“I think it is possible it could continue to drop, but it is the lowest we have recorded in many years and possibly ever,” Marquis said.

The Census Bureau report also broke down Snohomish County health care coverage into demographics. For instance, working-age women were more likely to have health insurance than men.

The percentage of uninsured low-income working-age adults dropped from 18.6 percent in 2013 to 9.6 percent at the end of 2015.

The Community Health Center of Snohomish County accepts patients with and without insurance. It has seen the number of uninsured patients it serves decline from 36 percent in December 2013 to 25 percent in January 2017. At the same time, the number of patients with Medicaid coverage rose from 53 percent to 63 percent.

“As more patients become insured, less burden is upon them to think about medical costs and co-pays, which allows them to seek medical and-or dental care more frequently resulting (in) improvements to their overall health,” said Jessica Ro, a spokeswoman for the Community Health Center.

The center has had to hire more staff to assist with its growing patient load.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that an average of about 244 million Americans under age 65 had health insurance in 2016. Almost two-thirds had coverage through an employer, and about a quarter were enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

A smaller number had non-group coverage purchased through or outside one of the health insurance marketplaces established under Obamacare, through coverage that was provided by Medicare, or other sources.

An estimated 27 million Americans under age 65 were uninsured in 2016.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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