Washington State's number of uninsured has dropped dramatically since 2012.
By the end of 2015, the number of uninsured Washingtonians hovered at 7.3%. Compare that to 14.5% uninsured back in 2012. What a difference a few years can make. Well, that and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Since early 2014, Americans have been required to enroll for medical coverage or pay a penalty to the IRS. But more importantly, the ACA allowed states to expand Medicaid. Washington adopted this expansion, allowing a substantial number of residents to enroll. And in 2015, the ACA started requiring large employers to provide coverage to their employees, or pay a penalty – the famed “play or pay” rules.
Currently our uninsured population sits at 522,000. This segment tends to be between 18 and 34, lower income, less educated, and predominantly Caucasian and Hispanic. They won’t all have to pay Uncle Sam – there are exceptions to the penalty for being uninsured.
One huge bonus to covering additional people in our state has been the reduction in uncompensated care, down from $2.35 billion to $1.2 billion in just one year. These are dollars written off by hospitals for care provided to the uninsured, who are unable to afford the cost of that care. The reason why this is such bonus? Uncompensated care has to be paid by someone, and that someone is the population who has private (group-based or individual) insurance coverage – we see it in higher charges for services, resulting in higher premiums.
How does Washington State stack up nationally? Throughout the US in 2015, the uninsured rate was 9.1%. While Washington State at 7.3% is better than the national average, we still have half a million people who have no insurance coverage. It will take time. After all, the “winning” state is Massachusetts, with an uninsured rate below 4%. But remember, they instituted mandatory coverage requirements years before the national push by the ACA.
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I love numbers. I'm a math geek. I read benefits industry articles and periodicals for relaxation (but, honestly, I'm still a fun gal). I also like to share what I've learned and you'll find it all here.