New Census Data: Maine Uninsured Rate Jumps by .9% from 2012 to 2013; Number of Mainers without Health Insurance Grew by 12,000

Nationally, the uninsured rate dropped by .2%; Maine and New Jersey were the only states where the rate of uninsured residents rose

Augusta, Maine (Tuesday, September 16, 2014) The number of Mainers without  any form of health care coverage grew by 12,000 in 2013 and the state uninsured rate rose from 10.2% in 2012 to 11.2% in 2013, according to federal Census Bureau data released today. Nationally, the rate of uninsured fell by .2%. Maine and New Jersey were the only states to experience an increase in the percentage of their people who do not have health insurance.

“This dramatic increase of 12,000 uninsured and the fact that Maine is one of only two states to see an increase in the percentage of people without health insurance are sobering evidence of the failure of Maine’s recent health care policy choices,” said Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) executive director Garrett Martin. “Restrictions on Medicaid eligibility and elimination of key consumer protections proposed by Governor LePage and passed by the 125th legislature were major factors in reversing Maine’s decade long progress toward increasing the number of Mainers with health care coverage. People without health insurance are less likely to visit a family doctor and receive preventive and diagnostic care; they are more likely to delay treatment until they are sicker and require more costly treatment. This is bad medicine, bad for working families who cannot afford insurance, and bad for Maine’s economy.” 

Martin cited 2012 legislation to tighten income requirements for parents and make childless adults and all 19- and 20-year-olds ineligible forMaineCare, Maine’s version of Medicaid. Martin also referenced higher health insurance premiums for older Mainers and small businesses in rural areas attributed to implementation of PL 90, passed in 2011, as factors contributing to some people losing their health coverage.

“Maine’s continued rejection of $338 million annually in federal Affordable Care Act funds to expand Medicaid coverage will only make it more difficult to reduce the number of uninsured,” said Maine Equal Justice Partners executive director Sara Gagné-Holmes.  “Thousands of Mainers too poor to qualify for subsidies for private coverage under the health reform law are unable to afford insurance through the health insurance marketplace and will be left without options. Maine can close the coverage gap by accepting federal healthcare funds to make affordable health insurance available to Maine families who need it.”

Martin noted 2014 census data – to be released in September 2015 – will provide more definitive information on the impact from ACA implementation. States like Maine that failed to expand Medicaid will likely fall further behind those that did. Recent surveys support that trend, citing a July 2014 Urban Institute report which found that through June 2014, the uninsured rate dropped 37.7% in states accepting ACA funds to expand Medicaid while the uninsured rate in states like Maine that have rejected ACA funds declined by only 9%.

“MECEP estimates that failure to expand Medicaid is costing Maine’s economy half a billion dollars each year that would support over 4,000 jobs, ensure Mainers get the care they need from their family doctor, and save hospitals millions of dollars for care provided to the uninsured,” Martin added. “Maine ranks 43rd among the states and the District of Columbia in jobs recovered in the wake of the Great Recession. Accepting ACA funds would give Maine’s economy a much needed boost and ensure that Maine gets back on track when it comes to getting people access to the health care they need.”