State News

Number of uninsured Vermonters cut in half

Governor says progress is good news but also highlights need for further health care reform 

On Monday, Jan. 5, Gov. Peter Shumlin welcomed news that the Vermont Household Health Insurance Survey shows the number of Vermonters without health insurance has dropped significantly and reiterated the need for aggressive health care reform efforts to increase access and affordability of health care for all Vermonters. The Governor said that he will outline his health care reform agenda in his annual Budget Address next week on January 15.

Initial results from the 2014 Vermont Household Health Insurance Survey indicate that about 19,000 of the 43,000 Vermonters without health insurance in 2012, the date of the last annual survey, are now covered. This reduces by nearly half the number of uninsured Vermonters, dropping the state’s uninsured rate from 6.8 percent to 3.7 percent, the second lowest in America. Only 1 percent of Vermont’s children (under age 18) are uninsured, the lowest rate in the nation. The drop in the uninsured rate is across all income and age groups as well as geographic and demographic categories. More men (4.9 percent) are uninsured than women (2.5 percent), but both percentages are approximately half of the 2012 numbers. Every county in Vermont has seen a reduction in the number of uninsured individuals. Essex County saw the largest drop from 19.8 percent in 2012 to 9.9 percent in 2014. These initial data findings will be included in the full report released by the survey company in the coming weeks.

The data show that the lower number of uninsured Vermonters is caused by the expansion of Medicaid eligibility and some insurance coverage changes included in the Affordable Care Act. The Governor celebrated the lower uninsured rate, saying “With all the pains and struggle, it is clear that Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act are benefiting Vermonters.”

The survey results make clear that the cost of insurance remains the main reason uninsured Vermonters lack coverage. Over 65 percent of uninsured Vermonters said the high cost of insurance is either the sole or main reason they do not have insurance coverage.

“It is great news that the number of uninsured Vermonters has significantly decreased,” the Governor said. “More Vermonters have insurance now than ever before, giving them access to quality care and peace of mind. But that good news comes with its own consequences. First, the higher number of Medicaid recipients exacerbates the so-called ‘cost-shift’ to private insurance premiums due to the low Medicaid reimbursement rate. Second, the survey results make clear that the cost of care is still a significant barrier keeping Vermonters from obtaining insurance, and we know it is squeezing the budgets of those who do have insurance.”

The Governor noted that these pressures highlight the importance of continuing robust health care reform in Vermont and said that he would lay out details of his proposal in next week’s budget address. The Governor said that his health care reform efforts this session would focus on:

Changing the way we pay for health care, shifting to payment based upon quality rather than quantity in order to help drive down costs.

Supporting our primary care system for the benefit Vermonters by strengthening the Blueprint for Health and building on the preliminary results it has shown in bending the cost curve while ensuring quality health care to Vermonters.

Bringing under control the cost shift that forces private insurance rates to cover the inadequate reimbursements received for Medicaid care, particularly in light of increased Medicaid participation.

Enhancing the Green Mountain Care Board’s role in driving down health care cost with the goal of lowering health care spending increases to between 3-4% in the long term.

“When I announced that I could not support a financing package to move our state to a single payer system now, I also stressed how critical it is to continue health care reform for Vermonters,” said the Governor. “We must continue to strive for universal, affordable health care coverage and a better, more unified system of health care delivery for all Vermonters.”

The 2104 Household Health Insurance Survey was conducted by Market Decisions of Portland, Maine. The survey consulting firm spoke to 4,000 Vermont households (covering 10,000 people) by phone between August and December.

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