More Than One Million in NJ Lacked Insurance Before Advent of Obamacare

Census statistics for 2014 and beyond expected to show marked decline in number of uninsured

More than 1.1 million New Jerseyans were without health insurance as the first open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act began in 2013, according to new estimates.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday released its Small Area Health Insurance Estimates, which break down insurance statistics by county, age, race and poverty level. The 2013 estimates should be the last to reflect pre-Obamacare counts of those without insurance.

The 2013 statistics show that 15 percent of those under age 65 in New Jersey were without health coverage in 2013, an increase of about 3 percent from 2012 and more than 10 percent higher than in 2008, near the start of the most recent recession. Insurance data typically looks at those under 65 because that is the age when people begin to be covered by Medicare, although some disabled people are insured by the national insurance program at a younger age.

Not surprisingly, poorer New Jerseyans had higher rates of not being insured. Nearly 1 in 3 people living at or below 138 percent of the poverty limit, or $32,430 for a family of four, lacked coverage in 2013. Even at 400 percent of poverty — $94,000 for a family of four — 1 in 4 people went without health insurance.

The rates of people without insurance were also higher for minorities, with 4 of every 10 Hispanics and 22 percent of blacks age 18-64 lacking insurance, while 11 percent of non-Hispanic whites in the same age bracket did not have health coverage.

Race and wealth are also factors. Hunterdon, the state’s wealthiest county and the second-least diverse, had the largest proportion of insured residents: more than 92 percent, although that was slightly less than in 2012 or 2008. Hudson County, New Jersey’s most diverse county — the population is 42 percent Hispanic, 15 percent Asian and 11 percent black — had the most uninsured residents, with almost 134,000, or nearly 1 in 4 of all those under age 65.

Next year’s insurance-coverage estimates should show improvement due to the ACA, which had its first enrollment period starting I n October 2013. Nearly 162,000 New Jerseyans had enrolled during that first period. Open enrollment for 2015 ended on February 15, although anyone who has to pay a penalty due to non-enrollment last year can still sign up through April 30. Enrollment data for this period is not yet available.