Uninsured in Massachusetts Still Exist and Face Daunting Challenges

While Massachusetts has the lowest uninsurance rate in the nation (4.8% for adults age 19-64 and ~1% for children 18 and under), people continue to experience periods of uninsurance. We now know a lot more about the remaining uninsured in Massachusetts thanks to a brand new report issued by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation and the Urban Institute.

The report goes into impressive detail about who the uninsured are and what challenges they face.  Perhaps even more importantly, the report suggests outreach strategies that state agencies, policymakers, and other stakeholders can use in their efforts to insure hard-to-reach populations.

The most revealing statistic from the report shows that 10.6% of all adults (age 19-64) have been uninsured at some point during the past twelve months. At the HCFA HelpLine, we speak with thousands of uninsured Massachusetts residents every year who are seeking help obtaining health insurance, or assistance understanding their coverage options. Many of these people experience periods of uninsurance due to situations beyond their control.

I was presented with an example of one of these situations while fielding calls on our HelpLine last week. Laurinda, an uninsured woman reached out to us after her COBRA health insurance expired. She applied for subsidized health insurance through the state and was waiting for a response when she contacted me. During this brief period of uninsurance she had fallen and broken a bone. She went to the only place she could be seen right away – the emergency room – and was told she needed surgery that could cost her $15,000 up front. We assisted her in securing subsidized care so that she could get the surgery she desperately needed.

Here’s what Laurinda wrote to us when she finally got the insurance she needed:

“This injury and my inability to get health care have been depressing and distressing.My attempts to navigate the system had hit a dead-end and my lack of familiarity with the process was incredibly frustrating. Your knowledge, patience and understanding gave me hope during a very bleak time. I am grateful for you and your work–you do it well and with fabulous results quickly.”

That’s why we do what we do.

But what about the remaining uninsured that cannot access the health care services they need? The financial and health risks of uninsurance are well documented in this report and others. Affordable Care Act implementation gives Massachusetts resources to reinvest in outreach, education, and enrollment services for the hard-to-reach communities this report highlights as key to health reform’s success. We look forward to working with state partners (all of you!) to ensure (and insure) uninterrupted access to quality, affordable health care for all Massachusetts residents.

-Kate Bicego

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4 Responses to Uninsured in Massachusetts Still Exist and Face Daunting Challenges

  1. Pingback: Connector Board Approves Affordabililty and MCC Regulations |

  2. dennis byron says:

    The Blue Cross (Urban Institute) research is old and seriously flawed. In fact, it has nothing to do with “the last 12 months.”
    — Old: mostly five-year-old 2008 data.
    — Seriously flawed: it is some convoluted average of two different surveys done with different methodologies for different resaons.

    If this had been done by professionals rather than far-left-wing ideologues like the out of state people at Urban Institute, this research would border on malpractice.

    Putting that intellectual dishonesty aside, what the report says — and which seems intuitively correct to me given my experience helping people with health insurance needs — is that over 75% of the people who didn’t have health insurance back in 2008 qualified for free or very low cost MassHealth or RomneyCare policies. And they still didn’t get it. It was mostly free or totally free and they still didn’ t sign up.

    Conclusion: both poor people that could have Masshealth and/or RomneyCare for nothing (around 75% of a small number) and other people who are willing to pay a tax penalty rather than buy RomneyCare (around 25% of a small number) know bad products when they see them.

    (And whether she had insurance or not, I would hope Lucinda would go to the ER if she broke a bone.)

    • Kate Bicego says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Dennis.

      As far as Laurinda’s visit to the ER goes, she only received a temporary fix to her broken bone. She needed surgery to permanently repair the her wrist and was unable to afford the out-of-pocket cost (~$15,000 up-front) the surgeon required to see her.

      I think we all agree that ER care is not the solution to the problem for the uninsured. We hear from people regularly on our HelpLine that are too scared to go to the ER to get the emergency health care services that they desperately need for fear of medical bills.

  3. Mary Leddy says:

    I’m surprised the state is not investing much funding for outreach and enrollment grants to help implement all the Affordable Care Acts many changes that people will be facing next year. The new term is called Navigators, who are the community advocates that will explain all the changes to people and help them access the new programs. How is this going to be done without much funding to community groups?

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