One of the big ideas behind the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was that it would bring millions of Americans out of being uninsured and provide them with at least some sort of safety net in the event of a catastrophic illness or injury. That has certainly come to pass in Minnesota, as hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are children, were able to get health coverage where they previously had none.
From 2013 through the end of 2015, about 200,000 Minnesotans were about to get some sort of coverage thanks to the various aspects of the ACA, and that included some 35,000 kids, according to the latest data from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the Minnesota Department of Health. As a result, only 4.3 percent of Minnesotans are still without health coverage. That's the lowest level ever observed in the state, and that's thanks in large part to the booming success of the state's MNsure exchange site.
"Today's news confirms that more Minnesotans are getting health insurance coverage. This is great news for Minnesota," said MNsure CEO Allison O'Toole. "However, our work is not done yet. Today's report shows 22 percent of Minnesota's uninsured are potentially eligible for advanced premium tax credits available only through MNsure. We do not want Minnesotans to leave money on the table, and will do everything we can to make sure they are getting the coverage they need and can take advantage of the financial supports available to make it affordable."
When it comes to the demographic groups that saw improvements in insurance rates during the two-year period in question, the good news is that basically all of them took steps forward, the report said. The uninsured rate among Latinos fell most sharply, though, dropping nearly two-fold to just 11.7 percent from the 34.8 percent observed just two years earlier. Nonetheless, the state recognizes that there is still work to be done, because minorities in the state still have significantly elevated uninsured rates of in comparison with Caucasians.
Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger noted that these gaps are troubling for state officials, the report said. To that end, they will continue to develop programs designed specifically to address these disparities in the long term, and hopefully level the playing field even more.
What's at stake?
This is important because data suggests that more than 3 in every 4 state residents with insurance in 2015 had some of their health care costs defrayed by that coverage, and more than 9 in 10 felt those plans would help them get the treatments they might need, the report said. But about 20 percent continued to avoid treatment because they were afraid of those costs, and that number hasn't changed over the last two years.
This kind of data could be a boon to health insurers as long as they can highlight the benefits of coverage. Some consumers may still be wary of these costs, particularly if they don't feel they're at particular risk of health issues.