Tampa Bay Times
“Federal report cites drop in Floridians without insurance”
By Kathleen McGrory
June 23, 2015JMI Media MentionThe share of Floridians without health insurance dropped nearly 6 percentage points to 18.8 percent after key parts of the Affordable Care Act took effect, according to federal data released Tuesday.The slide from 2013 to 2014 mirrored a nationwide trend for people under 65.Florida’s newly insured included Lizzie Jimenez, a nursing student at St. Petersburg College who had gone without health insurance coverage since she was a child.”It was such a relief to finally have insurance,” said Jimenez, recalling how she once asked an emergency room doctor not to do a costly angiogram because she wasn’t covered.Despite the downward trend, however, Florida’s uninsured rate remained among the highest in the country, according to the federal data. Only three states had a larger share of residents without coverage: Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska.The figures come from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s long-running National Health Interview Survey. Annual health insurance coverage numbers are published every June.This year’s release was par- ticularly important because it reflected the first full year that people could purchase health insurance on the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. It also reflected the first full year subsidies were available to help offset the cost of coverage.Some supporters of the health law said the latest CDC figures are proof that President Barack Obama’s signature policy is working.”We’re seeing a really good trend,” said Laura Brennaman, policy and research director for Florida CHAIN, a consumer advocacy group. “The law is doing what is it supposed to do.”But Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy for the conservative James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, cautioned against reading too much into the numbers.”When you force people to buy something, of course the numbers are going to go up,” he said. “This is in no way, shape or form evidence that Obama’s health care policy is working to bring down health care costs or improve access to health care services.”The controversial health law could be upended if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds a legal challenge to the subsidies. A decision is expected this week or next.The report released Tuesday found that 13.3 percent of Americans, or roughly 35.7 million people, were uninsured in 2014, down 3 percentage points from 2013.The drop was even more pronounced among people living at or below the poverty line. The uninsured rate for poor people fell from 27.3 percent in 2013 to 22.3 percent in 2014, according to the survey.The data showed that the uninsured rates declined for black and Hispanic people nationwide.The data provided for each state was not broken down by race or income level.The report did note that the uninsured rate varied widely from state to state. While Texas and Oklahoma had a 21.5 percent uninsured rate, Hawaii had a 2.5 percent uninsured rate.The study also pointed out that the uninsured rates dropped more in states that expanded Medicaid than in states like Florida that decided against the policy.Jimenez, the St. Petersburg College nursing student, said she is glad to no longer be among Florida’s uninsured.”I was paying however much out of pocket to go to the emergency room, and I never really got the care that I needed,” she said, adding that she often worried about her health.Now, Jimenez pays $50 a month out of pocket for an insurance plan that lets her focus on her studies and part-time job.”I can go to a specialist and someone will take care of me,” she said.Article: http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/as-nation-awaits-obamacare-ruling-report-cites-6-percent-drop-in-uninsured/2234762