Fewer West Virginians had health insurance in 2017 than the year before, reversing a years-long trend of coverage increasing, according to U.S. Census data released Wednesday.
The rate of West Virginians without health insurance dropped from 14 percent (255,000 people) to 5.3 percent (96,000) between 2013 and 2016, coinciding with Medicaid expansion in the state under the Affordable Care Act. But in 2017, that increased to 6.1 percent (109,000), per the data.
The U.S. as a whole saw the rate of uninsured Americans drop from 13.3 percent in 2013 to 8.8 percent in 2016, a difference of about 13.7 million people.
From 2016 to 2017, the number of uninsured in the U.S. stayed roughly the same, at 8.8 percent, or 28.5 million people. The percentage of uninsured increased in 14 states, including West Virginia, during that same timespan, according to the Census.
In a report on its findings, the Census Bureau noted that changes in coverage could be the result of economic and demographic shifts or “policy changes that affect access to care.”
“Several such policy changes occurred in 2014, when many provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went into effect,” the report said.
The Affordable Care Act, also referred to as “Obamacare,” implemented sweeping changes to U.S. health insurance markets. States that expanded Medicaid eligibility through the act, such as West Virginia, had a lower overall uninsured rate (6.5 percent) compared to states that didn’t expand Medicaid (12.2 percent).
In a news release on the data, the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy said the state “experienced some of the highest health coverage gains in the nation following the Affordable Care Act.”
“It is troubling on many fronts to see the positive health care trends reversed in West Virginia and stalled on a national level,” said Sean O’Leary, the center’s senior policy analyst, in a statement, adding that ensuring coverage is easy to sign up for will help reverse the trend.
Nationally, employer-based health insurance was the majority’s choice for coverage (56 percent), while Medicaid covered 19.3 percent of the population.
The Census also released data Wednesday related to income and poverty. From 2016 to 2017, median household income jumped from $60,309 to $61,372 and the poverty rate dropped from 12.7 percent to 12.3 percent, according to the data.