As you hunker down for the storm, it’s a good time to catch up with some new health data falling down on us. The Center For Health Information and Analysis (CHIA, née DHCFP) issued its Massachusetts Health Insurance Survey and Massachusetts Employer Survey this week. The report combines data from two surveys. The household survey was completed by over 4000 families, and includes cell-phone only households, and Spanish and Portuguese questionnaires in addition to an English survey. The employer survey is based on responses from 749 firms with at least 3 employees.
The Health Insurance Survey shows that Massachusetts continues to have by far the highest insurance coverage rate in the country, with 97% of all residents having coverage. Although the rate fluctuates, the rate of coverage has been essentially statistically unchanged since 2008. The uninsurance rate is higher for Hispanics, 6%, is double the rate for whites. Uninsurance is also higher among low-income residents, with 7% of those under 150% of the poverty level uninsured.
There was a statically significant increase in the uninsurance rate among children, rising from around .2% to 1.9%. We always viewed the 2010 finding of 99.8% coverage for kids to be a statistical fluke. The rate increased the most among low-income kids, leading us to think that the increased uninsurance might also reflect the reduction in MassHealth enrollment staff, which worsened in 2011. MassHealth covers over 550,000 kids, and delays in processing forms has led to increasing churn of coverage.
The report also looks at access to care, with nearly all residents (91%) reporting a usual source of care, and 88% a doctor visit in the past year. The proportion of residents reporting difficulty in obtaining care in the past year stayed at 22% like last year, as was the percent in families with problems paying medical bills, at 18%.
The report also looks at employers. The offer rate among employers remains high, and continues to exceed national offer rates.
We’re pleased to see CHIA begin to release some of its pent-up data. The insurance survey report, released last week, is based on a household field work that was conducted in summer 2011. Previously, data was compiled much quicker. While this latest report is coming out 16 months after the survey, the 2010 report was released just 6 months following the survey.
The state also used to release a valuable quarterly “Key Indicators” report, presenting a snapshot of state health data. Those reports ended in May 2011, and were supposed to be replaced with less-detailed “Quarterly Enrollment Updates.” But those stopped after one much-delayed report. The March 2011 quarterly update didn’t come out until February 2012, and the June 2011 report has been listed as “available shortly” for over a year.
Other reports required by statute have just not been produced. The last report on employers with over 50 workers using state benefit programs is from 2009. Again, for a year the website has stated that the 2010 report will be available shortly.
As a result, some have charged that the delay in data reporting is an attempt to hide bad news from public scrutiny. While we don’t think so, we hope that the new more independent, configuration of CHIA leads to more timely and complete reporting of health data that the public and policymakers depend on.