Nearly 96 percent of District residents now have health insurance, leaving 25,000 people left to cover, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week. The latest numbers on health coverage are great news for DC, which continues to have one of the lowest rates of uninsured of any state in the country. To achieve universal health coverage, the District should work to address barriers that prevent eligible residents from accessing care.
DC’s uninsured rate continues to shrink since the enactment of health reform, through which the District expanded its Medicaid program and set up a marketplace for residents to more easily and affordably purchase private insurance, DC Health Link. Compared to 2013, about 17,000 more residents now have health coverage.
There’s more good news. The share of children who lack health coverage continues to drop, and now stands at just 1.5 percent. Most racial and ethnic groups experienced a decline in the uninsulated rate. For the first time since health reform was enacted in 2010, the District’s white and African American residents now have the similar levels of health coverage. This is an important sign that DC’s efforts to expand affordable health insurance options have helped close the “coverage gap.”
Yet gaps in health coverage still remain, with some groups facing higher uninsured rates than others. Although many more Hispanic and Latino residents have health insurance, just over 12 percent still don’t have coverage – roughly three times the rate of the District at large. While DC residents who were born outside the US were in general more likely to have health insurance in 2015 than in 2014, people who are non-citizens still lack coverage at higher rates than people who are naturalized citizens. In addition, people who are unemployed, or who lack a high school degree, are also more likely to be uninsured.
There are steps the District should take to drive down uninsured rates further. District leaders should continue promoting the public and private health coverage programs available to residents, like DC Health Link, Medicaid, and the Healthcare Alliance. Leaders should also work toward reducing the barriers that prevent residents from enrolling, re-enrolling, and accessing care, like restrictive eligibility processes within Healthcare Alliance, which appear to have led thousands of eligible residents to forgo health insurance.
With health insurance options available to virtually all ages, incomes, and citizenships statuses, no one should have go without coverage. District leaders should be applauded for expanding coverage options for nearly all residents, and should be encouraged to continue this important work.
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