Maine sees biggest drop in nation without health insurance and other news

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

Maine has seen the largest drop in the number of people without health insurance of any state.

That’s the conclusion of a new US Census Bureau report looking at health insurance rate changes from 2019 to 2021. It follows a report from the US Department of Health and Human Services last month that showed a roughly 5 percent drop in the number of poor people. Maine citizens who were uninsured within a year of the expansion of Medicaid.

Last year, there were about 77,639 Maine residents without health insurance, which is about 5.7 percent of the state’s population. This is down from 8 percent two years earlier.

This is a decrease of 2.3 percentage points, the largest drop of any US state in this two-year period. Only Idaho, at 2 percentage points, saw the same decline as Maine.

Maine now ranks 14th among all 50 states in terms of percentage of uninsured residents, up from 26th two years earlier.

“Over the past two years, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Maine has outperformed all other states in improving health care coverage. More Maine residents can now see a doctor, buy medicines and get preventative care while keeping families and our economy healthy,” Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said Monday.

Maine saw growth in both private and public health insurance, with a 1.1 point increase in the proportion of residents with private insurance and a 1.2 point increase in the proportion of residents with public health insurance.

This drop in the uninsured rate in Maine coincides with the Medicaid expansion here, which Mills ordered on her first day in office in January 2019, about 14 months after Maine voters approved the expansion at the ballot box. Her predecessor, Republican Paul Lepage, refused to implement the voter-approved expansion and vetoed numerous previous attempts passed by the Legislature. The two are set to go head to head this November in a race for Blaine’s home.

According to the Governor’s office, citing data from the Maine Health Data Organization, since the expansion in Maine from 2018 to 2020, unpaid hospital care in the state has decreased by $84.1 million.

“Maine hospitals have long supported expanding healthcare coverage, and this great news proves that this is the right policy,” Steve Michaud, president of the Maine Hospital Association, said Monday. “With the federal government paying for the majority of the Medicaid expansion, this is a big win for Maine residents, hospitals and other healthcare providers, and the Maine economy.”

Despite the progress made in expanding access to health insurance, Maine still outperforms all other New England states in the number of people insured. The Census Bureau estimates that Massachusetts has a 2.5 percent uninsured rate, Vermont 3.7 percent, Rhode Island 4.3 percent, New Hampshire 5.1 percent, and Connecticut 5. 2 percent.

However, Maine is well ahead of most states that have not expanded Medicaid, including Texas, where 18% of residents are uninsured.

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