Massachusetts Has Best Rate of Uninsured In The Nation

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Massachusetts has the lowest rate of residents who have no health insurance coverage in the country, according to the annual U.S. Census Bureau survey released today.

The state’s average uninsured rate for the years 2006 and 2007 dropped to 7.9 percent. Massachusetts was previously seventh in the country with an uninsured rate of 10.3 percent for the two-year period between 2004 and 2005.

The federal survey counts anyone who didn’t have health insurance anytime during the year as uninsured. The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority began enrolling people in its Commonwealth Care program in October 2006 while the expansion of MassHealth, the state Medicaid program, began several months earlier.

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There are now nearly 440,000 newly covered Massachusetts residents. Nearly half of them, approximately 191,000, purchased their health insurance without any government subsidies. By comparison, the number of people with private insurance throughout the country remained stagnant, according to the figures released today.

“This is one more indicator of the tremendous strides Massachusetts is making to reduce the ranks of the uninsured,” said Health Connector Executive Director Jon Kingsdale. “And we’re doing it with a robust combination of government-subsidized and private insurance.”

Having health insurance is helping people like 28-year-old Jaclyn Michalos of Norwood who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, but is now cancer-free.

“If I didn’t have health insurance, I would never have made an appointment with my doctor because of the cost,” said Michalos. “The cancer would have spread and I would not be alive today. Having health insurance saved my life.”

There are various estimates of the number of uninsured remaining in Massachusetts. One factor is timing. The U.S. Census Bureau survey was taken in early 2008 and gauged coverage for the two-year period 2006-2007. The Urban Institute recently estimated that seven percent were without health insurance coverage based on a survey taken in the fall of 2007. The Department of Revenue’s preliminary estimate of tax-filers without insurance as of Dec. 31, 2007, was five percent based on most recent tax returns.

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