New Census data: Maine’s uninsured rate remained steady in 2018

The share of Mainers who lack health insurance remained steady from 2017 to 1018, according to preliminary data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

More than 100,000 residents — or roughly 8 percent of Mainers — were uninsured in 2018. That’s a 0.1 percentage-point decrease from 2017, representing no statistically significant change year over year. These new figures provide an initial look at conditions, but will be augmented by fuller, more detailed data to be released by the Bureau on September 26.

Maine’s steady uninsured rate is similar those seen in other states and nationally, where there was also little change in the share of population without health insurance. Overall, the share of the national population without insurance inched upward slightly.[1]

The uptick in the number of Americans without insurance may be the result of changes at the federal level, where the Trump Administration has implemented policies which have undermined the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act, and driven up rates in some instances.

States that have expanded access to Medicaid since 2014 under the auspices of the federal Affordable Care Act have seen greater declines in their uninsured rates than states that have not. Additionally, these states appear to have been somewhat insulated from the small national increase in the uninsured rate between 2017 and 2018.

Note: Figures represent a simple (unweighted) average of uninsured rates in the states. Maine is included in the figures for all non-expansion states. Expansion states include all states that expanded Medicaid from 2014 through 2018.

Source: MECEP analysis of US Census Bureau, Health Insurance in the United States, 2013 and 2018.

Maine’s Medicaid expansion law was enacted by voters in a 2017 referendum but was delayed by former Gov. Paul LePage. Coverage became available under the law when Gov. Janet Mills assumed office in January 2019, so the effects of expansion are not captured in the data released today by the Census Bureau. The effect of Maine’s Medicaid expansion law on the state’s uninsured rate won’t be apparent until 2019 data is released next year.

The statistics released today on health insurance coverage at the state level are just one piece of information from the Bureau’s American Community Survey. Most of that data for 2018 will be released at the end of the month. The second release will contain more information on coverage rates for subgroups, such as children and seniors, as well as racial and ethnic groups, and coverage rates by income level.

The Census Bureau on Tuesday also released state-level statistics on the share of Mainers living below the poverty level in 2018. However, this data relies on a small survey population and yield relatively imprecise data small states, such as Maine. The data to be released on September 26 will provide more reliable estimates. MECEP will post further analysis of the federal health coverage and poverty data when it becomes available.


[1] The Census Bureau released two national-level measures of the share of American without health insurance. According to the Current Population Survey, the share of Americans without health insurance increased from 7.9 percent in 2017 to 8.5 percent in 2018. According to the American Community Survey, the increase was much smaller, from 8.7 percent to 8.9 percent of Americans.