Pre-Obamacare Numbers Show Big Increase in Uninsured NJ Residents

Colleen O'Dea | September 19, 2014 | Health Care, Map of the Week, Maps
Number of people in the state without health coverage likely to be much lower because of ACA sign-ups for 2014

The number of New Jerseyans without health insurance rose again in 2013, providing further proof for advocates of the need for the federal health insurance law.

As a result of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the U.S. Census estimates of the insured and uninsured in 2014 will look very different from those the bureau just released for 2013, advocates said.

The 2013 data, released yesterday, showed a 4.3 percent increase from 2012 to 2013 in the number of New Jersey lacking health coverage. More than 13 percent of the state’s population, or nearly 1.2 million people, were without insurance.

“That was really expected,” said Shivi Prasad, a policy analyst with Legal Services of New Jersey’s Poverty Research Institute. She noted that the state changed eligibility requirements for the state’s public healthcare program in March 2010, leading to a drop of almost 90 percent in the number of low-income parents enrolled — only about 8,200 had coverage as of last December.

“That was a huge decline,” Prasad added.

Ray Castro, senior policy analyst with New Jersey Policy Perspective, said that since most people are insured through their employer, the state’s continued high unemployment level has contributed to the rate of the uninsured.

“Plus the SNAP (food stamp) caseload has increased and foreclosures are up, so we’re not surprised at all that it (the percentage of uninsured residents) went up,” he said.

But because of the advent of enrollment through the ACA, and because the number of New Jerseyans who got coverage through the health insurance marketplace exceeded expectations, next year’s data will show a big a drop in the uninsured, Castro said.

“In New Jersey this is not going to be a good year for us economically and that would normally mean an increase in the uninsured, but because of the (federal) subsidies we are going have a drop, a major drop,” Castro said.

The 2013 ACS data gives a good snapshot of which New Jersey residents needed Obamacare.

* Almost a quarter of all Jerseyans ages 19-25 did not have health coverage last year, the data shows. That was a higher percentage than all adults under age 65 without insurance — 19 percent.

* Men comprised 53 percent of the state’s uninsured.

* Nearly 30 percent of Hispanics did not have coverage, while 15 percent of blacks did not have insurance.

* Three out of 10 foreign-born residents and nearly half of non-citizens had no insurance.

* The lower the education level, the higher the rate of those without insurance, with more than 30 percent of those who did not get a high school degree not having coverage.

* Four out of 10 unemployed people were not insured.

* The uninsured rate for people with incomes below $50,000 was almost four times greater than for those with incomes of more than $100,000.

As for those New Jerseyans with insurance, 70 percent had private coverage — typically through an employer — and 27 percent had public coverage, about equally split between Medicare for seniors and the disabled and Medicaid or other means-based insurance for low-income residents.

The levels of insurance coverage among the populations of the counties differed significantly, typically tied to income level, race and ethnicity and immigration status. Hunterdon County, which had the highest median household income, had the lowest rate of uninsured residents at 5.4 percent. In Hudson County, which has large populations of Hispanics and immigrants, 22.7 percent of residents lacked coverage, the greatest proportion of any county.