New Census Data: Uninsured Rates in Wisconsin

This week, the US Census released 2016 data about the uninsured. It shows that, since 2013 (pre-Obamacare) to 2016, the number of uninsured people in Wisconsin has decreased by 218,000. The rate of uninsured has decreased from 9.1% in 2013 to 5.3% in 2016, a 42% decrease.

Wisconsin has made substantial progress toward Governor Walker’s goal, “to reduce the number of uninsured in our state by 224,580, or roughly half” under the 2013-2015 biennial budget.  Despite this progress, Wisconsin’s Governor Walker continues to advocate for ACA repeal, and last week opined in the Washington Examiner that Obamacare “is collapsing before our very eyes” — this, despite significant evidence suggesting otherwise.

The strength in the individual and ACA market depends on continued health plan participation and continued enrollment.  Yet the Trump Administration recently took steps to scale back outreach efforts for upcoming open enrollment period, which begins on November 1. Funding for advertising is reduced 90%, and funding for Navigator groups, that conduct community education and enrollment, reduced over 40%.

Last week, members of Congress began discussion of a bipartisan approach to improving health insurance. Agreement is emerging to secure funding for the cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) that the ACA requires insurance companies to provide for their enrolled members with incomes below 250% of the federal poverty level. At the same time, talk re-emerged of another repeal effort, under the Cassidy-Graham bill, which would shift the ACA’s insurance subsidies and Medicaid funding to block grants controlled by states. Several reports, including here and here, suggest that this bill is unlikely to pass.

Congress, the President, and Governors continue to talk. And insurance carriers and community groups continue to focus on preparing for open enrollment period that begins November 1 and lasts for a short 6 weeks, reduced from prior year’s 12 week period.  The goal: assure that Wisconsin residents renew their existing coverage, and reach Wisconsin’s remaining 300,00 uninsured residents to consider what coverage might be available for them.

Donna Friedsam