Health Insurance Coverage in Maine: Heading in the Wrong Direction, Particularly for Children

New Census Bureau data released yesterday paint a bleak picture for Maine when it comes to improving access to affordable health coverage

Maine is the only state that has not experienced an increase in the percentage of people with health insurance coverage since passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. The new data also show that Maine currently ranks 24th in the nation in percentage of those with health coverage—down from 10th in 2010.

Health coverage 9-17-2015blogApproximately 134,000 or 10.1% of Mainers lacked access to health insurance in 2014, statistically the same as in 2010.

A more in-depth look at the numbers reveals an even more troubling trend. The percentage of uninsured children under 18 has gone up significantly from 4.0% in 2010 to 6.3% in 2014. That translates to approximately 5,000 fewer Maine children with health insurance coverage.

Not only is Maine the only state that hasn’t experienced any improvement in health coverage for the total population since 2010, it is also the only state with a statistically significant increase in the percentage of children without health insurance over that same period. Every other state can boast the exact opposite. They are covering more people and they have a lower percentage of their population without insurance. They’re also covering at least the same, if not a higher, percentage of children. While a big driver of this is expanded Medicaid, even those states that haven’t accepted federal funds to provide health care to low-income residents are still realizing significant gains in health coverage thanks to other provisions of the ACA.

Yesterday’s Census data make it clear that Mainers and especially children are bearing the brunt of the LePage administration’s failed health care policy. The governor’s success in cutting access to health care for low-income individuals and parents in his first term doesn’t just hurt parents. Research shows that when parents lack health coverage, their children are less likely to have coverage as well. The new census data seem to affirm this.

These actions, combined with the governor’s continued opposition to accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid, make Maine an outlier when it comes to ensuring that more people have access to affordable health care. This will have lasting effects for the health of Maine people and our economy.

It’s not too late for Maine to change course, accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, and maximize the benefits that the ACA has to offer. Yesterday’s census data paint a compelling picture for why that should be an important priority in the upcoming legislative session.