By Thomas McAuliffe and Akeiisa Coleman
Research has documented that people in the United States without health insurance often lack access to affordable health care. Having health insurance is associated with better health care access, overall health status and work productivity. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), national health reform that expands coverage and access is set to become reality.
In late June the Supreme Court upheld the law, making available the possibility of affordable health insurance for all Missourians. Newly released 2012 Census results underscore the need for this health reform now more than ever as a growing number of Missourians experience the very real consequences of not having quality, affordable health coverage.
The recently released Census estimates show that the number of uninsured Missourians has grown by 42,000 from 835,000 to 877,000. The rate of uninsured among those under age 65 in Missouri hovers just above 17 percent.
In 2002 the Institute of Medicine released a report estimating that 18,000 adults in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 64 died because they did not have health insurance. A 2008 report generated state-level estimates of the number of deaths due to a lack of health insurance. Specifically in Missouri, the report found that nearly 10 working age uninsured adults died each week in 2006 and approximately 2,800 adults died between 2000 and 2006 due to a lack of health coverage. This is clearly an issue that has real consequences for the individuals and families that struggle with it. Ultimately, the issue impacts us all through the effects on the entire health care system.
Under health reform, the health care system will change dramatically over the next few years. In 2014 several significant ACA provisions intended to expand coverage will take effect, including health insurance exchanges and an expansion of Medicaid. To help navigate this new landscape, it will be critical for our state’s lawmakers to have an accurate understanding of Missouri’s health care needs.
In July of this year Cover Missouri (a project of the Missouri Foundation for Health) partnered with the Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City to release a report summarizing the current insurance gaps in all 114 Missouri counties and the City of St. Louis. The report projected how many individuals in each county will be newly insured in 2014 through the ACA, assuming Missouri adopts the Medicaid expansion outlined in the law.
Projections of how many individuals in each Missouri county will be newly insured in 2014 can promote successful ACA implementation and preparation for expanding access to health care services.