New Census Data Show Importance of Public Health Insurance Programs
The state-level health insurance data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week vividly highlight the growing importance of public health programs in our state. At a time when thousands of Washingtonians have lost employer-sponsored health insurance, the data show that public health insurance is providing a crucial backstop for workers and families as the economy recovers. Yet, while the need for state-sponsored health insurance has grown rapidly throughout the recession, policymakers have enacted deep and painful cuts to these services in the current biennium. A new round of cuts announced last week will weaken our public health infrastructure even more.
The graph below shows that share of Washingtonians (population under 65) covered by employer-sponsored health insurance declined by 3.6 percentage points from 66.6 percent in 2006-07 to 63.0 percent in 2008-09. The availability of state-supported public health programs – such as Medicaid, Apple Health for Kids (S-CHIP), and the Basic Health Plan – has enabled many Washingtonians to continue receiving care, however. During the same period, the share of the population accessing public health insurance increased by 2.3 percentage points from 13.2 percent to 15.5 percent.
As the graph shows, public health programs in Washington have been particularly important in preserving coverage for children. Before the recession, about 24.8 percent of children in Washington were covered by public health insurance. By 2008-09, that share had grown to 34.2 percent – an increase of 9.4 percentage points.
Now more than ever, workers and families in Washington are in need of public health services. But new, across-the-board budget cuts announced last week will substantially weaken our state’s ability to maintain this important support system – which has already weathered cuts amounting to 10.6 percent in the current biennium. (For more information, see the latest Budget & Policy Center Policy Brief, A Step Backward: The 2009-11 State Budget.)
Furthermore, several initiatives slated to appear on the November would substantially reduce state resources in the current year and coming years, forcing even deeper cuts in public health and other vital state systems.
Note: Next week, the Census Bureau will release more detailed state-and county-level statistics on poverty, health insurance status, and host of other statistics. Stay tuned to schmudget.