FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ATLANTA – New Census data shows that nearly 1.9 million Georgians under age 65, more than 20 percent of this population,went without health insurance coverage from 2010-2011, putting Georgia among the bottom ten states for access to health coverage. Since before the recession (2006-2007), the number of Georgians under age 65 without health coverage increased by about 250,000, leading to a 2.6 point increase in the uninsured rate among this population.
“These new numbers continue to highlight the need for state leaders to implement health care reform to expand access to health coverage in Georgia,” said Timothy Sweeney, the director of health policy at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. “In particular, Georgia should prepare to expand Medicaid to cover potentially one-third of Georgians currently without coverage.”
The continued decline in employer-sponsored coverage is one of the main drivers of the growth in Georgia’s uninsured population and rate,compared to before the recession. In 2006-2007, 63 percent of Georgians under age 65 were covered by their (or their spouse’s or parent’s) employer. By 2010-2011 that rate fell more than 8 points to 54.7 percent. The decline in employer coverage continues a longer-term trend; in 1999-2000 approximately 68.7 percent of Georgians under age 65 were covered by employer coverage.
While public health coverage through programs such as Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare programs has helped fill the gap created by declining employer-coverage for children, non-elderly adults in Georgia are not as likely to be covered by public programs. In 2010-2011, nearly 43 percent of children in Georgia were covered by public programs (including military health insurance), while only 16 percent of Georgians ages 18 to 64 were covered by public insurance.
Evidence of the importance of public programs such as Medicaid and PeachCare can be found in the discrepancy in overall coverage rates between children and adults in Georgia. In 2010-2011, adults in Georgia ages 18-64 were about two-and-a-half times more likely to go without coverage compared to children underage 18 (25.7 percent of Georgians ages 18-64 were uncovered compared to 10.4 percent for children under age 18).
This coverage disparity between children and adults in Georgia illustrates the importance of the Medicaid Expansion created by the national health reform law (The Affordable Care Act) and the billions in new federal funds that would enable Georgia to extend health coverage to more uninsured adults beginning in 2014.
“Expanding Medicaid to cover more Georgians who lack coverage is a great deal for the state and will dramatically improve access to health care services for Georgians across the state,” said Sweeney. “Georgia should not pass up the opportunity to bring in billions in new federal funds to boost the health care system and cover more Georgians in need.”
Although the number of Georgians without coverage has increased since prior to the recession, the new Census data highlights the early success of the national health reform law, and its provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance. Nationally, health insurance coverage among 19 to 25 year-olds increased by 3.7 points since 2009; nearly 1 million fewer 19 to 25 year-olds went without coverage in 2011 compared to 2009. Next week, data from the American Community Survey will allow us to look at Georgia’s 19 to 25 year old population to see if the national trends hold true.
“Increased health coverage rates among young-adults at the national level highlight the importance of the Affordable Care Act and its provisions that allow young adults to remain on their parents health insurance until they are 26,” said Sweeney. “At the same time, the Census data showing that more than one-quarter of Georgia’s working-age adult population went without health coverage in 2010-2011 illustrates the importance of the Medicaid expansion available to Georgia in 2014 and should motivate state leaders to take advantage of new federal resources to expand access to health coverage across the state.”
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About the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
GBPI is the state’s leading independent, nonpartisan nonprofit engaged in research and education about the fiscal and economic health of the state of Georgia. GBPI provides reliable, timely analysis of Georgia’s budget and tax policies, and promotes greater state government fiscal accountability, improved services and an enhanced quality of life for all Georgians.