Number of N.J. uninsured cut in half, survey shows

Source: NJ.com Health
On the eve of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act last fall, more than one in five New Jersey residents – 21.2 percent – reported they had no health insurance. A year later, that’s down to 11.5 percent, according to a survey released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. That translates into an estimated gain of coverage by 520,000 residents.
Some may be resisting because they still find health insurance to be too costly. “This is especially true for those with moderate incomes,” says Joel Cantor, director of the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy, who collaborated with the Foundation to analyze the Jersey numbers. “For example, a family of four with $90,000 per year income would get only a very small subsidy. There are affordability exemptions available through healthcare.gov, but paying premiums will be a stretch even for some families not meeting the federal standard for such an exemption.”

And then there are those who simply feel they can do without health insurance and don’t want to be forced to buy it. They may change their minds once they encounter the penalty fine when they file their taxes. For this year, it’s 1% of income or $95 per adult (half that for kids), whichever is higher. But in future years, it will get steeper.

Not all of those people are paying for their coverage the same way. Some are paying a portion of the cost while the federal government is subsidizing the remainder. The largest chunk – perhaps as much as half – have signed up for Medicaid, which New Jersey chose to expand.
Still others are residents who bought policies on their own – either because the Obamacare law forced them to, or because it offered them a wider array of policies than had previously been available. As of June, when the survey was done, insurance coverage in New Jersey broke down into four broad categories:
— 64.1 percent got health insurance through work.
— 14.6 percent got it through individual policies, whether subsidized by Washington or not.
— 10.8 percent had Medicaid or insurance through some other government program.
That leaves the 11.5 percent who continue to lack insurance. No further details were available from the survey as to the characteristics of the people who remain uninsured.
The federal government already reported that 162,000 people got insurance policies through healthcare.gov, the website through which lower-income residents could become eligible for a subsidy should they qualify. Another 250,000 residents are estimated to have signed up for Medicaid, which now covers single poor people as well.
While nine out of ten New Jerseyans now have health coverage, Canto cautioned against the notion that the state could somehow get everyone insured. “We will never have truly universal coverage under the current system. Some people will always be eligible for exemptions, the undocumented will never be eligible for subsidized coverage, and some people will choose to pay the penalty rather than purchase coverage,” he said.

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