Hundreds of thousands of Americans now enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having health insurance, thanks to a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26. Newly released Census data show that the uninsurance rate for 19- to 25-year-olds dropped by 2.2 percentage points between 2010 and 2011, the largest decline among any age group. David S. Johnson of the U.S. Census Bureau said that 40 percent of that decline could be attributed to this provision of the Affordable Care Act, which went into effect in September 2010.
In Minnesota, however, the percentage of people without health insurance climbed to 9.5 percent in 2010-2011, a 1.3 percentage point increase from 2008-2009. Although Minnesota’s uninsurance rate continues to be one of the lowest in the nation, the Affordable Care Act creates the opportunity for more Minnesotans to obtain comprehensive and affordable coverage. In Massachusetts, which has already implemented many elements of the Affordable Care Act, just 4.4 percent of the population lacks health insurance coverage.
The new data from the Current Population Survey show other troubling trends. After weathering two recessions, many Minnesota families are worse off economically than they were a decade ago. The state’s median income has fallen by nearly $13,000 since 2000-2001, and the percentage of Minnesotans living below the federal poverty level ($23,050 for a family of four) has increased by four percentage points.
Lawmakers can make policy choices that would address these trends. For example, extending Unemployment Insurance benefits can help families make ends meet as many struggle to find jobs in this economy. At the state level, Minnesota could help 57,000 adults get affordable and comprehensive health care coverage by taking advantage of the opportunity to expand Medicaid.
We’ll take a closer look at poverty and income in Minnesota next week when the Census releases more detailed results from the American Community Survey.