Massachusetts coverage rate nearly universal

February 1, 2012

More people in Massachusetts have health insurance now than when mandated coverage was enacted. Despite the gains, costs are still climbing. Learn the national implications.

Most working-age adults in Massachusetts have health insurance, an increase since the state enacted mandated coverage in 2006, according to survey results published January 24 on the Health Affairs Web site.

In a statewide survey taken in 2010, 94.2% of the state’s 19- to 64-year-olds reported being covered, up from the 86.6% estimated in 2006.

The survey also showed first-time reductions in emergency department visits and hospital inpatient stays, as well as improvements in self-reported health statuses. At the same time, premium costs paid by workers have increased to $1,200 for single coverage in 2010 from $1,011 in 2006. Family coverage rose to $3,444 in 2010 from $3,128 in 2006.

To obtain the 2010 data, the authors conducted a randomly sampled telephone survey of approximately 3,000 nonelderly adults in the state. With a 39% response rate, the sample included households with cell phones and landlines. The authors compared the 2010 data with annual surveys from 2006 through 2009.

Other findings:

More than two-thirds (68.0%) reported coverage through an employer, an increase from 64.4% in 2006. The study found no evidence that employers are dropping coverage since the enactment of health reform.

The number of respondents reporting a general doctor visit declined by 3.5 percentage points between 2009 and 2010, perhaps reflecting increases in the use of specialists and preventive care under reform, according to authors.

In 2010, 6.1% of respondents said out-of-pocket health spending was at least 10% of their family income-a decline from 9.8% in 2006.

“Just as Massachusetts’ 2006 health reform legislation provided the template for the [Patient Protection and] Affordable Care Act…the state’s experience under that legislation provides an example of the potential gains under federal health reform,” the authors conclude. “It is likely that the path to near-universal coverage nationally will be slower and bumpier than it was for Massachusetts in 2006. Yet the findings for Massachusetts are a reminder that major gains in coverage and associated benefits are possible.”

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