Uninsured rate in Washington state drops by half to 7.3 percent

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Map of uninsured by county - 2014

February 3, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The number of people without health insurance in Washington state has dropped from 14.5 percent in 2012 to an estimated 7.3 percent or 522,000 people in 2015, according to a new report issued today by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.

The report highlights the positive impact of the federal Affordable Care Act in Washington with county-by-county data on the uninsured and the law’s effect on many segments of the population.

“Today, there are nearly 470,000 fewer uninsured people in our state,” said Kreidler.  “Nearly every county in Washington saw a drop in the uninsured rate, illustrating how the Affordable Care Act has delivered on its promise to improve access to health coverage in our state.”

Among the report’s key findings, from 2012 to 2014:

  • Adams, Yakima, and Grays Harbor counties experienced the largest decline in uninsured. 

  • Kitsap County had the lowest uninsured rate at 5.6 percent.

  • Kittitas County had the highest uninsured rate at 14.5 percent.

  • The amount of uncompensated care costs decreased from $2.35 billion in 2013 to $1.2 billion in 2014.

  • Those who remain uninsured are more likely to be age 18 to 34, lower income, less educated, and predominantly Caucasian and Hispanic.

  • The gains in coverage are tied to a number of reforms under the Affordable Care Act, including most significantly:
    • Federal premium subsidies for nearly 120,000 Washingtonians.
    • The popular provision to keep young adults on their parents’ health plans up to age 26.

  • Specific decisions were instrumental to Washington’s success, such as:
    • The creation of Washington’s state-based Exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, which helped 157,500 people get covered. 
    • Adopting Medicaid expansion helped 680,000 people gain coverage.

In addition to profiling the drop in uninsured, the report also highlights key emerging issues in health care that are challenges for Washington state and the country as a whole. These include the rising costs of health care, prescription drugs, and increasing out-of-pocket costs for consumers. 

“The Affordable Care Act helped improve access to health coverage, but access is only part of what’s wrong with our health care system,” said Kreidler. “We can and should celebrate our success, but we also need to continue finding new ways to tackle the growing costs of health care, including lowering costs for consumers.”

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