Sharp decline in uninsured New Jerseyans in wake of Obamacare, report finds

Jessica Perry//September 19, 2014

Sharp decline in uninsured New Jerseyans in wake of Obamacare, report finds

Jessica Perry//September 19, 2014

The number of uninsured New Jersey non-elderly adults plunged 46 percent — from 21.2 percent in September 2013 to 11.5 percent in June 2014 — according to a new report Friday from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.According to the report, co-authored by Joel Cantor, director of the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy, and Katherine Hempstead of RWJF, the decrease is statistically significant — and suggests that more than 520,000 New Jerseyans have obtained health coverage since September 2013.

“This are the first numbers showing the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the number of uninsured in New Jersey,” Cantor said. “They show a robust response to the ACA.”

Cantor said the survey shows that “People are responding to the availability of subsidies for private plans (on HealthCare.gov) and to the expansion of Medicaid eligibility. It appears that the problem of the uninsured was cut nearly in half since the third quarter of 2013. We can expect the number gaining coverage to rise a bit further this year, as people eligible for Medicaid can still sign up. The next opportunity for other individuals to buy coverage will begin in November, when the HealthCare.gov annual enrollment period opens for 2015 plans.”

These data come from the Health Reform Monitoring Survey in New Jersey, a New Jersey supplement of a national survey conducted by the Urban Institute. A quarterly survey of the non-elderly, it is designed to provide timely information about the Affordable Care Act, whose new health insurance exchange this year began providing billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies that have gotten millions of Americans covered via HealthCare.gov and other state-run websites.

According to the survey, completed in June 2014, 7 percent of respondents reported that they obtained coverage through the ACA exchange at HealthCare.gov. Nearly two-thirds said they have employer-sponsored insurance, about 11 percent reported Medicaid or other public coverage and approximately 14 percent reported non-group or other coverage.

These report said the results are consistent with HealthCare.gov enrollment data for New Jersey from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, which reported in May that 162,000 New Jerseyans enrolled in plans on HealthCare.gov from the start of open enrollment last October through April 2014.

The report said it is not known how many of those 162,000 were previously uninsured. However, the non-group market in New Jersey is reported to have grown by approximately 50,000 between thefourth quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, the study said. And while official estimates for the second quarter have yet to be released, it is anticipated that enrollment will again increase considerably.

The number of new Medicaid enrollees is estimated to be approximately 250,000. However, this number does not take into account the considerable backlog of applications facing many New Jersey counties, as well as the fact that the New Jersey Medicaid expansion began in 2013.

New Jerseyans who bought coverage at  HealthCare.gov had three insurance companies to choose from: Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, AmeriHealth New Jersey and Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey.

Tom Vincz, spokesman for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, said Horizon “applauds the news that tens of thousands of previously uninsured residents have gained new access to the health care system and can experience the peace of mind that comes with health insurance coverage. As New Jersey’s market leader, Horizon is committed to providing broad and affordable access to quality hospitals and doctors, and guiding more consumers to the answers and understanding they need when purchasing their health coverage.”

Christine Stearns, vice president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said: “The survey appears to confirm that the high cost of health coverage resulted in many New Jerseyans being uninsured. Subsidies and expanding Medicaid eligibility has reduced those barriers.”

Betsy Ryan, chief executive of the New Jersey Hospital Association, added: “It’s important to note that this is survey data, but it signals a positive trend. We look forward to helping enroll many more New Jerseyans. We still have more than a half-million New Jersey residents without health insurance, plus an estimated 525,000 undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for coverage under the health reform law. Plus, the majority of New Jersey’s newly insured are on the Medicaid program, which has its own set of challenges. There’s still more work to do.”

And Ray Castro, senior policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective, said: “While there have been complications in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, this report clearly shows that it is exceeding its most important goal, which is reducing the uninsured. Its findings are consistent with enrollment in he Marketplace, which also exceeded projections. The state was also very smart to opt for the Medicaid expansion, which is the main reason the uninsured is dropping at a faster rate than the national average. The big increase in federal funds that will be spent in premium subsidies and Medicaid will also help stimulate New Jersey’s economy. Good news all around.”

Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey spokeswoman Cynthia Jay said “It is a positive sign to see this progress in overall insurance plan enrollment in New Jersey. There is still a tremendous need to work toward insuring those many thousands of individuals and small groups that remain uninsured in the State. As Open Enrollment approaches, there is an opportunity in the individual marketplace to keep educating consumers about the availability of insurance, as well as communicating with small business the importance of health coverage for the workforce.”

John Sarno, president of the Employers Association of New Jersey, said health insurers were able to offer competitively priced health plans on  HealthCare.gov. And he said the fact that so many New Jerseyans have gotten coverage indicates  that “public education of the ACA has been effective.”


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