The federal Current Population Survey (CPS) 2007 health insurance estimates were released today by the Census Bureau, with continued good news for Massachusetts.
The absolute numbers should be treated with a lot of caveats when looking at an individual state. There are widely acknowledged methodological issues with the CPS insurance statistics. Many of these are discussed in DHCFP’s recent report comparing the various surveys. The bottom line is that CPS numbers are good for indicating trends and direction, particularly when they confirm other surveys. The CPS numbers are not good for a count of the uninsured in any one state.
That being said, here’s the main findings:
Overall Rate: Our overall uninsurance rate is 2007 was 5.4%, the lowest in the country. Taking a two-year average, which is more statistically valid, the rate for 2006-2007 was 7.9%, also the lowest in the country. We had been the 7th-lowest for 2004-2005.
Trend: Looking at 2-year averages, the MA uninsurance rate dropped from 10.3% for 2004-2005, to 7.9% for 2006-2007. Only 6 states experienced a drop in coverage over this period. Our drop was the second highest of all states. (West Virgina had a larger drop in their uninsurance rate, but started at a much higher level, going from 16.5% to 13.8%).
Kids: Our uninsurance rate for kids is also the lowest. Overall, the rate is 3%, for 2007, and 5% for 2006-2007 averaged. Both of these are the lowest in the country. For kids under 200% of the poverty level, the 2007 rate is 1.1%. The second and third best states on this measure have rates of 2.1% and 2.3%, roughly double ours.
On the national front, the CPS statistics confirms the continued decline in employer-based coverage. The percentage of people with private coverage dropped from 67.9% to 67.5%. This was made up by a gain in government-provided coverage, going from 27.0% to 27.8%. So netted out, overall coverage increased slightly, and the national uninsurance rate declined. Here’s what Len Nichols of the New America Foundation concluded:
In other words, a weakened economy and rising health care costs have led fewer Americans to buy private insurance and more Americans to turn to the government for safety net coverage. Let’s keep in mind, however, that the numbers released today are for 2007, before the economy really took a turn for the worse. Therefore, we can expect the reduction in private coverage enrollment and increased dependence on Medicaid to be magnified in 2008. This path places increasing strain on local, state, and federal governments who are already grappling with tough budgetary constraints.
Bottom line: a decrease in the number of uninsured Americans from 47 million to 45.7 million should not distract us from the underlying fact that our current system is unsustainable, that private coverage is decreasing, and state and local governments are faced with higher and higher health care bills.
The new census data both validate the ongoing reports of progress in Massachusetts, and confirm the urgent need for national reform which Senator Kennedy so forcefully emphasized last night.
POSTSCRIPT: Digging deeper into the numbers uncovered this startling fact. Nationally, from 2006 to 2007, the number of uninsured dropped by 1,338,000 people. In Massachusetts, the number of uninsured dropped from 2006 to 2007 by 317,000 people.
So, Massachusetts is responsible for 24% of the decline nationally in the number of uninsured. This is despite us representing only 2.1% of the national population. Almost a quarter of the decline is due to MA. The national uninsurance statistics would not be nearly as positive without the contribution of MA health reform.