U.S. uninsured rate hits another record low, at just 8.8 percent without health insurance

NHIS LogoThe nation’s uninsured rate dipped slightly to 8.8 percent between January and September 2016, down from 9.1 percent the year before, according to the latest National Health Interview Survey data.

According to the report, in the first 9 months of 2016, 28.2 million people of all ages were uninsured at the time of interview, 20.4 million fewer than in 2010. Also, Hispanic adults saw the greatest gains, but remain biggest opportunity – only 24.7 percent of Hispanics were uninsured in the first nine months of 2016, down from more than 40 percent in 2013.

In Kentucky, just 6.5 person of people were uninsured at the time they were interviewed, while 46.7 percent said that they had public health plan coverage (such as Medicaid or Medicare) during the nine-month period and 57.1 percent said they had private health insurance coverage during that timeframe.

This report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) presents selected estimates of health insurance coverage for the civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. population based on data from the January-September 2016 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), along with comparable estimates from previous calendar years. This report is updated quarterly and is part of the NHIS Early Release (ER) Program, which releases updated selected estimates that are available from the NHIS website.


Organization helps Americans understand what Medicaid is all about

commonwealth fund logoMedicaid now covers more than 73 million people, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), making it the nation’s largest insurer. Yet the program is not well understood by the public.

That’s why The Commonwealth Fund put together these five facts about Medicaid:

  1. Nearly 16 million people have gained Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s expansions; most had previously been uninsured. A recent Commonwealth Fund survey found that about 60 percent of these newly insured adults were uninsured prior to gaining Medicaid coverage. Half were either uninsured for more than two years or never had coverage.
  2. Most people are satisfied with their Medicaid coverage. A recent Commonwealth Fund survey found that 88 percent of adults are satisfied with their new Medicaid coverage: 77 percent rate it as either good, very good, or excellent.
  3. Medicaid helps people get care and improve their health. About 70 percent of new Medicaid enrollees who’ve used health services said they would not have previously been able to access or afford their care. One study compared adults in two southern states that expanded Medicaid eligibility (Arkansas and Kentucky) to those in Texas, which did not. It found that people in Kentucky and Arkansas had greater access to primary care, were less likely to skip medications due to cost, were less likely to visit the emergency department, and were more likely to say they were in excellent health.
  4. Medicaid provides access to timely care. About two-thirds of adults with Medicaid coverage who tried to find a new primary care doctor found it very or somewhat easy to do so and 59 percent waited two weeks or less to see them.
  5. Medicaid provides comprehensive benefits and financial protection from large medical bills.

The mission of The Commonwealth Fund is to promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults. For more information, please click here.


Passport aids with research for Kaiser Family Foundation study about recent rural hospital closures

kaiser family foundation logoThe number of rural hospital closures has increased significantly in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue, according to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured and the Urban Institute, raising questions about the impact the closures will have on rural communities’ access to health care services.

To investigate the factors that contribute to rural hospital closures and the impact those closures have on access to health care in rural communities, the Commission conducted case studies of three hospital closures that took place in 2015: Parkway Regional Hospital in Fulton, Ky.; Mercy Hospital in Independence, Kan.; and Marlboro Park Hospital in Bennettsville, S.C.

Passport Health Plan and Chief Executive Officer Mark B. Carter contributed to the research. Key findings include:

  • A number of factors contributed to the closures, including aging, poor, and shrinking populations; high uninsured rates; a payer mix dominated by Medicare and Medicaid; economic challenges in the community; aging facilities; outdated payment and delivery system models; and business decisions by corporate owners/operators.
  • The closures reduced local residents’ access to care, especially emergency care. While inpatient hospitals in these and other communities may not be sustainable, without new models of health care delivery in place, hospital closures can lead to gaps in access.
  • The closures led to an outmigration of health care professionals and worsened pre-existing challenges around access to specialty care.
  • New care models may be better able to address the health care needs of rural communities. Some rural hospitals may be able to adapt and new models may be created to address changing demographics and delivery systems.  Such reconfiguration may require federal support and assistance as well as regional planning efforts. A state’s decision about the Medicaid expansion has an important impact on hospital revenues and access to care, but the sustainability of rural hospitals depends on a broader set of factors.

To see the full report, please click here.

The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit organization focusing on national health issues, as well as the U.S. role in global health policy. For more information, please go online to kff.org.


Number of uninsured Kentucky residents continues to drop, report shows

foundation for a healthy KYThe number of Kentuckians without health insurance continues to drop, and new Medicaid enrollees continue to take advantage of free preventive health services, according to an ongoing study of federal health reform’s impact in the state.

According to the latest quarterly report, the rate of uninsured Kentuckians was 7.5 percent in December 2015, down from 9 percent in June 2015. The national rate in December was 11.7 percent. In 2013, before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Kentucky’s uninsured rate was 20.4 percent.

“Lack of insurance is a significant barrier to getting necessary health care and preventive services timely,” Susan Zepeda, CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said in a news release. “Tracking this and other key information about access to and cost of care in Kentucky helps to inform health policy decisions.”

The report also showed that Medicaid covered 41,493 dental preventive services, 9,708 breast cancer screenings, 8,276 substance abuse treatment services, and 5,589 colorectal cancer screenings to enrollees age 19-64 during the fourth quarter of 2015. Most of these services were provided to beneficiaries covered under Expanded Medicaid, rather than traditional Medicaid.

The Foundation for a Health Kentucky is paying the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota more than $280,000 for a three-year study of how the ACA is affecting Kentuckians. This study used data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which produces state-level estimates of coverage twice a year.


Kentucky leads nation in reducing number of uninsured residents

KentuckyKentucky continues to lead the way in the reduction of people without health insurance, according to new polling by Gallup Inc.

Both Kentucky and Arkansas registered a decline of 12.9 percentage points from the time that the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014 through the end of 2015, but in percentage terms, Kentucky’s drop of 63.2 percent was larger than Arkansas’s drop of 57.3 percent. Oregon came in second place, with a drop of 62.3 percent.

Kentucky and Arkansas are the only Southern states to have expanded Medicaid and have a state health-insurance marketplace under the ACA. In both states, the uninsured rate was cut by well over half – Kentucky’s dropped from 20.4 percent to 7.5 percent, while Arkansas’s dropped from 22.5 percent to 9.6 percent.

However, with 7.5 percent still uninsured, Kentucky still trails several states in the percentage of population that does have health insurance.

For more information, please click here.


Kentucky sees highest decrease in hospital stays among uninsured residents, study shows

hospital buildingStates that expanded eligibility for Medicaid in 2014 – such as Kentucky – experienced dramatic decreases in uninsured hospital stays and increases in Medicaid-covered stays, according to a new study by Health Affairs.

Kentucky saw the most dramatic change in uninsured hospitalizations among states that took part in the Medicaid expansion, seeing a drop of 13.5 percentage points. States that did not expand Medicaid saw very little change in inpatient payer mix.

“It’s really exactly what policy makers expected. In states that expanded Medicaid you see a pretty sharp uptick,” Sayeh S. Nikpay, PhD, MPH said in an article by Health Leaders Media. Dr. Nikpay was a research fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation when she conducted the study. “It is nice when policies have their intended effect.”

The study found that between the third quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2014, “expansion states experienced a 7-percentage-point jump in the Medicaid share and a 6-percentage-point drop in the uninsured share.” The changes represent a 20% increase in Medicaid charges, and a 50% decrease in uninsured discharges.

For more information, please click here.


Kentucky leads way in drop of unpaid hospital stays since Medicaid expansion began

hospital buildingAccording to a study from the University of Michigan on the effects of Medicaid expansion, Kentucky hospitals were shown to have had the biggest drop in non-paying patients among 15 states.

Kentucky showed a decline of 13.5 percent in unpaid hospital stays in just the first six months after the 2014 expansion, according to the study. Hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid, like Kentucky, are taking care of more patients with health insurance, and thus have seen an increase in payments for their care, according to an analysis written by Melissa Patrick of Kentucky Health News.

Overall, hospital stays by uninsured patients went down 50 percent, and stays by people with Medicaid went up 20 percent, between the end of 2013 and the middle of 2014, a University of Michigan news release says. The study found that hospitals in states that did not expand Medicaid “continued to experience the same or even higher demand for care from people without insurance.”


Kentucky Sees Great Improvements in National Health Rankings

commonwealth fund logoWhile it’s still at the bottom of the pack nationally, Kentucky was among the states that saw the greatest improvements over time in health rankings released this week by The Commonwealth Fund.

The Commonwealth Fund’s Scorecard on State Health System Performance  looks at 42 indicators grouped into five domains: access and affordability, prevention and treatment, avoidable hospital use and cost, healthy lives, and health equity.

Kentucky ranked just 40th overall, but improved on 13 indicators of health and worsened on only three. Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island were the only other states to improve on more indicators.

Although states such as Kentucky have a long way to go, “they also have more to gain from improvement,” Douglas McCarthy, senior research director for The Commonwealth Fund, said in an article by The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.

According to the report, Kentucky saw substantial improvements in:

  • The numbers of insured adults ages 19-64 (Kentucky led the nation in declines among uninsured adults)
  • Adults who went without care because of cost in the previous year
  • Adults 50 and older who got recommended screenings and preventive care
  • High-risk nursing home residents with pressure sores
  • Readmissions to the hospital in 30 days among Medicare patients
  • Infant mortality rates

This 2015 edition of the Scorecard on State Health System Performance is the fourth in an ongoing series. This edition measures changes in performance during 2013 and 2014 to assess the effects of the Affordable Care Act’s 2014 health insurance expansions. Click here to see the full report.

The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults. For more information, go online to commonwealthfund.org.


Latest quarterly report shows how many more Kentuckians have health insurance

foundation for a healthy KYThe State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC), a health policy research institute at the University of Minnesota, has been studying how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been impacting Kentuckians as part of a contract with The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

The institute recently released its second quarterly health data snapshot, which covers the April-June 2015 timeframe. Highlights of this latest health data snapshot include:

  • From December 2013 to June 2015, Kentucky’s uninsurance rate dropped from 20.4% to 9.0%.
  • Medicaid funded thousands of preventive services during the quarter, including more than 10,000 breast cancer screenings. Over 9,000 of these breast cancer screenings were among Medicaid expansion enrollees, while nearly 1,200 were among traditional Medicaid enrollees.
  • Children obtained the majority of Medicaid’s dental visits, representing 66% of the more-than-250,000 dental visits provided during the quarter among Kentuckians under age 64.
  • Kentucky’s 11.4 percentage point drop in the rate of uninsured residents continued to outpace neighboring states (Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia), which averaged a 5.2 percentage point drop, as well as the national decline in uninsured, which was 5.7 percentage points.

Click here to view the complete 2nd quarterly health snapshot.

SHADAC is a health policy research center with a focus on state policy. For more information, go online to shadac.org. The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky makes grants, invests in pilot projects, does research and polling, and informs policy discussions. It is committed to improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. For more information, go online to healthy-ky.org.


New graphic from Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky shows how state’s uninsured population is dropping

foundation for a healthy KYThe Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has contracted with State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC), based at the University of Minnesota, for a multi-year study to the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Kentucky.

Recently, SHADAC released a new infographic regarding Kentucky’s uninsured health insurance rates from the recently released American Community Survey (ACS) census tables.

According to the data:

  • Kentucky had the largest percentage-point decline in the nation in uninsured rates from 2013 to 2014. Kentucky’s uninsured rate fell from 14.3 percent to 8.5 percent, a drop of 5.8 percentage points representing approximately 250,000 fewer uninsured Kentuckians.
  • From 2013 to 2014, Kentucky had approximately 234,000 fewer uninsured adults (ages 18-64) and 16,000 fewer uninsured children (ages 0-17).
  • Among Kentucky’s largest counties (those with approximately 65,000+ residents), Christian County had the sharpest percentage point drop in uninsurance for both adults (8.1 percentage points) and children (7.9 percentage points). Only ten percent of Kentucky’s counties have 65,000+ residents.

For additional information on the ACS estimates, please see SHADAC national and state-level infographics. For more about the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, and to see the infographic, please click here.