The Power of Public Investment in Health Care
New data released from the Census Bureau today show that investments in public health insurance programs prevented a rise in the number of uninsured Washingtonians in the wake of the recession. The number of people without health insurance remains at historically high levels, but the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will offer nearly one million Washingtonians currently without health insurance the opportunity to access affordable care.
Employers have been dropping health insurance benefits for adults and children since 2000, but the decline in employer-based coverage was most notable during the recession as unemployment rose dramatically. Public health insurance played a vital role during this time, providing over 250,000 Washingtonians with benefits that ensure they are able to see a doctor when they are sick without the fear of overwhelming medical costs.
The power of public investments in health care is most notable for kids (see chart). Children were the most likely to be dropped from employer-based health insurance coverage during the recession, but the rate of uninsurance among kids remained unchanged. That’s in large part due to Washington state’s Apple Health for Kids program, which successfully provided health care for children.
The impact of Apple Health for Kids shows how powerful public investment in health care can be. Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act will reap further returns from public investment, offering three of every four  currently uninsured Washingtonians the opportunity to obtain affordable health care, which would dramatically reduce the number of uninsured by 2014 and drive down the cost of health care for everyone.
The rate of uninsured has leveled off, which is good news, but we’ve got more work to do. Fully implementing health reform means that Washingtonians will have the security and peace of mind that comes with quality, affordable health insurance, which is good for our state’s families, businesses, communities, and economy.
1. “What’s at stake: The Affordable Care Act in Washington state: A county-by-county analysis,” Washington State Insurance Commissioner, 2012.