The percentage of Washington residents without health insurance dropped from 16.8 percent last year to 10.7 percent by mid-2014 according to a national survey released Tuesday by Gallup.
Only Arkansas, Kentucky and Delaware had larger declines in the percentage of uninsured residents. Oregon ranked 7th. The reductions come as a result of the Affordable Care Act, which sought to expand coverage through discounted health insurance and an expansion of who is eligible for free insurance through Medicaid.
States were given the option of setting up and running their own online insurance marketplace or exchange, operating an exchange in partnership with the federal exchange, or solely using the federal exchange. They also could decide whether to expand Medicaid to cover more people.
Washington state opted to run its own exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder, and expanded Medicaid. And in fact, all of the states in the top 10 for reducing their uninsured rates expanded their Medicaid programs, and either ran their own exchange or had a partnership arrangement. Twenty-four states opted not to expand Medicaid, though some are reconsidering their position.
“We have a lot to be proud of, and will continue doing everything we can to make the ACA work for the people and businesses of Washington,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in a prepared statement in response to the Gallup results.
While Healthplanfinder has wrestled with numerous technical challenges since its launch in October and still struggles to accurately enroll thousands of participants, the exchange is recognized as one of the most successful insurance marketplaces nationally. As of June 1, more than 156,000 people had insurance coverage through Healthplanfinder, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
In addition to people enrolling through the exchange, some residents bought individual insurance directly from insurance companies or brokers. Added together, the state’s individual insurance market grew 30 percent from December 2013 until this June.
The number of people insured through Medicaid, locally called Washington Apple Health, grew by even larger numbers, adding 369,000 people from December to June. Most of the growth is from residents who meet the more generous definition of who is eligible for Medicaid, which includes individuals earning up to nearly $16,000 a year or a family of four making $32,500. Some of the new enrollees previously qualified for Medicaid but for whatever reason had not signed up.
The results from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released Tuesday echo other surveys documenting decreases in the number of uninsured Americans. Sarah Kliff at the news site Vox has compiled a bunch of surveys related to insurance rates.
Most uninsured Americans will have to wait until November to sign up for coverage, unless they get married, divorced, move, have or adopt a child, or experience one of the other events that qualify for special enrollment. People with incomes low enough for Medicaid eligibility can enroll any time.