The number of Washingtonians without insurance is growing

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The number of Washingtonians without insurance is growing

State legislation aims to reverse a problematic trend in health care access

By - December 4, 2019

After many states expanded Medicaid in 2014, the number of Americans with health insurance significantly increased. This was great news for the health and well-being of people and communities throughout our state and country. For example, after Washington expanded Medicaid (Apple Health), the number of people without insurance rapidly dropped to 6% in 2016 from 14% in 2013. This significant increase in access to health care meant thousands of Washingtonians could now afford to see a doctor, get medicine when they were sick, and more easily access preventative health measures.

The latest Census Bureau’s data release, however, shows a reversal in this positive trend. In 2018, the number of Americans without health insurance coverage increased nationwide by 547,000 people from the previous year. Washington state mirrors this problematic trend – which is why lawmakers rightly passed Cascade Care in 2019 to address this issue.

Line graph showing uninsured rates in WA rising from 6.0% in 2016 to 6.4% in 2018.

While the share of Washingtonians without health insurance consistently remains lower than the national average, the rate of people without insurance nevertheless rose from 6.1% in 2017 to 6.4% in 2018. That means roughly 477,000 Washingtonians – more than the population of Spokane and Tacoma combined – remain without insurance. This includes about 47,000 children and young people under age 19 in our state.

This recent growth in the amount of people without health care is likely driven by several factors. They include rises in health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs of medical care, federal threats to the Affordable Care Act, and changes to how much costs are shared between government, employers, and those receiving coverage.

“The good news is that the legislature passed a law in 2019, Cascade Care, to combat rising premiums and the higher uninsured health coverage rate of Washingtonians.”

The good news is that the Washington state legislature passed a law this year, Cascade Care, to combat rising premiums and the higher uninsured health coverage rate of Washingtonians. Cascade Care aims to make health insurance more affordable by limiting insurance and out-of-pocket medical costs for working- and middle-class Washingtonians, particularly as increasing national premium prices raise health insurance premiums in Washington.

Cascade Care will roll out in 2021 and offers the potential to provide relief to individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet and to help more people gain access to health care and afford health insurance coverage. It’s a step in the right direction toward ensuring more people in our state have a key tool to improving their health and increasing access to more affordable health insurance.