New Census numbers find uninsured largely unchanged in CT; many more buying insurance directly

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In 2007, there were 326,000 uninsured CT residents, or one in eleven of us had no coverage – not significantly different from the 2006 numbers according to Census numbers released today. We had a good decrease in uninsured from 2005 to 2006 which has been stable. CT has the eighth best (lowest) uninsured rate in the US. HUSKY enrollment grew by 2% from 2006 to 2007. While this is all good news, there are still far too many CT residents living without coverage, risking both their physical and financial health. Click here for the CT Health Policy brief on the numbers.
Amongst all the stability is an interesting trend – the rising number of CT residents who directly purchase health insurance. That number rose significantly in 2007 to now equal the number of people without any insurance coverage. Anyone who has shopped lately for insurance, especially here in CT, knows how expensive it is. The state could do more for those direct purchasers to improve affordability and availability. Purchasers in CT’s small group market have several protections under state law including modified community rating (spreading costs over a larger group), guaranteed issue and renewability and the Insurance Dept. has to approve rate increases in the small group market. None of these protections apply in the individual market but they could. As part of their health care reforms, Massachusetts is merging their individual and small group markets, a reform that is expected to save individual purchasers 15 % (and only costing the small group market 1 to 1.5% more). MA also requires employers to allow workers to buy insurance with pre-tax dollars, saving direct purchasers even more. CT should look at these reforms at a minimum as more residents are relying on our largely unregulated individual insurance market.
Ellen Andrews