New York is Second to Massachusetts in Reducing its Uninsurance Rate Over the Past Decade

September 19, 2013. The percentage of New Yorkers without health insurance dropped for the second year in a row from 12.2 percent in 2011 to 11.3 percent in 2012 (+/- .5 percent) according to estimates released by the Census Bureau two days ago. Overall, the number of people without health care coverage across the state dropped to approximately 2.2 million people in 2012.

Moreover, New York was one of only four states that had a statistically significant reduction in the share of people not covered by private or public health insurance over the past decade.[1] Most observers would not be surprised that Massachusetts is the frontrunner among these states with a 4.4 percent decrease from 1999-2001 to 2010-2012 because of the comprehensive health care reform enacted there under Governor Mitt Romney in 2006. But many observers would be surprised that New York was second with an almost 3 percent decline over the same period—little more than a decade.

New York is followed by Hawaii, and then Vermont, where the 1.4 percent decrease in rate of uninsurance is less than half that experienced in New York. Conversely, from 1999-2001 to 2010-2012, twenty-eight states experienced statistically significant increases in the share of people not covered by private or public health insurance.

A large part of this change is due to the success of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), launched in 1998, along with Medicaid, which resulted in a dramatic fall in the number of children without health insurance in New York State over the last decade. Altogether these programs combined to cover over 419,000 more children in the state since 1999-2000, or 283,000 more children since before the Great Recession, an increase of over 19 percent from 2006-2007. The rate of uninsurance for this group has fallen to 6.1 percent in 2011-2012, reflecting statistically significant decreases of 3.1 percent since 1999-2000, and 2 percent since 2006-2007.

The trend among children contrasts sharply with that of adults. That’s largely because private insurance coverage—in particular, job-based coverage— declined during this period; also it is much more difficult for adults to qualify for public health insurance than it is for children. Coverage through employer-sponsored health insurance decreased by 4.4 percent for people under 65 in New York State since 2006-2007. However, a statistically significant increase in the share of New York’s population covered by Medicare from 14.4 percent in 2006-2007 to 15.8 percent in 2011-2012 has also contributed to overall growth of health care coverage in New York. Altogether, 36.3 percent of New Yorkers in 2011-2012 had coverage through government health insurance programs and 63.4 percent were covered by private health insurance.

Starting on October 1, New Yorkers who can’t get affordable health insurance through their jobs but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid can sign up for coverage for 2014 through the state’s new health insurance marketplace, NY State of Health. Many people will be eligible for new federal subsidies to help them pay their premiums and reduce their out-of-pocket health costs. Governor Cuomo’s office estimates that more than one million New Yorkers will gain coverage through the NY State of Health marketplace.

PDF of Chart: Percent of People Not Covered By Health Insurance

PDF of Figure: Statistically Significant Percentage in Health Insurance.

PDF of Table: Change in Percentage of People Without Health Insurance Coverage by State.

[1] Three-year averages that  pool three years of sample data for an overall larger sample size and that allow valid comparison across all states including those with smaller populations were used in this analysis. One-year results show a steeper decline in New York but use of such estimates is not as rigorous as use of three-year averages.