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Washington’s uninsured at 14.5 percent before start of health reform

The number of Washington residents with no health insurance grew to 990,000 at the end of 2012, according to a new report from state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.  Approximately 14.5 percent of people were uninsured before 2014.

The report contains county-by-county data on the uninsured and the number of people eligible for free or low-cost health care in Washington state.

“The growth in the uninsured leading up to full implementation of the Affordable Care Act only makes the case for reform stronger,” said Kreidler. “I’ve long held that our current health care system was unsustainable and these numbers illustrate the crisis we faced.”

Among the report’s findings, from 2010 through 2012:

 

  • The number of uninsured people in Washington grew by more than 44,000.
  • Four out of five people with individual insurance were underinsured.
  • Employer-sponsored coverage grew increasingly scarce.
  • Uncompensated care ballooned to nearly $1 billion per year.

 

Counties with a particularly high percentage of uninsured residents include: Yakima (24.1 percent), Grant (20.4 percent), and Chelan (19.9 percent).

With the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act now in effect, the uninsured rate is expected to drop from 14.5 percent to 6 percent by 2016 and approximately 805,400 low- and middle-income families to be eligible for free or low-cost health coverage through the state’s Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder.

The report also found that:

 

  • Eighty percent of people with individual health insurance were underinsured—meaning they had plans that only paid for 25-40 percent of their medical costs.

 

  • Early provisions of the Affordable Care Act prevented an estimated 100,000 people from joining the ranks of the uninsured.

 

  • Charity care and unpaid medical bills at hospitals and health care providers’ offices continued to hover around a $1 billion a year in Washington.

 

  • More than 323,700 people have enrolled in health coverage as of Jan. 23, 2014.

 

“For many families who have struggled to get or keep health coverage, health reform couldn’t come soon enough,” said Kreidler. “Regardless of how you feel about ‘Obamacare,’ it’s hard to argue that we’re not making progress in stopping the growth of uninsured or that the status quo was sustainable. Before health reform, we had hundreds of thousands of people living one bad diagnosis away from bankruptcy.”

 

This is the fourth report on the uninsured from Kreidler since 2006.

 

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