By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – New U.S. Census Bureau figures released on Sept. 12 revealed that there were 120,500 Rhode Islanders under 65 who did not have health insurance in 2011.
Nationally, there were 48.6 million people had no health insurance in 2011, a decrease of 0.6 percentage points, the largest single year decline since 1999, according to the figures.
Ron Pollack, executive director of the Families USA, a national health consumer organization, viewed the figures in a positive framework of the success of health care reform. “The new Census Bureau report about uninsured Americans provides clear and unmistakable evidence of the current benefits of Obama Care and the need to move forward with the full implementation of the law in 2014,” he said.
The drop in uninsured nationally is a result of a provision in health care reform that enables young adults to remain on their parent’s health insurance plan until they turn 26, according to Linda Katz, policy director at the Economic Progress Institute in Rhode Island. About 9,000 young Rhode Islanders have coverage as a result of this provision, according to Katz.
Further, the Rhode Island-specific data showed that 557,300 Rhode Islanders (63 percent) had health insurance coverage through their jobs, while 171,200 (19.3 percent) received health insurance through the Medicaid program. The majority of the Medicaid program enrollees are parents and children covered under RIte Care, according to Katz.
“We are fortunate that RIte Care helps ensure that Rhode Island children have the health coverage they need to keep them healthy, especially when many families continue to struggle with unemployment and the lack of health insurance,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.
Rhode Island ranked 10th best in the country in the number of uninsured children, an improvement from the previous year’s ranking at 13th, according to Burke. Rhode Island’s three-year percentage of uninsured children between 2009-2011 is 5.9 percent, according to Burke.