(Charleston, WV) – Fewer West Virginians had access to health care in 2017 than in 2016, despite recent health coverage gains in the years following the Affordable Care Act, according Census data released today.
It shows 109,000 West Virginians lacked health insurance in 2017, an increase of 13,000 from 2016. West Virginia’s uninsured rate increased from 5.3 percent to 6.1 percent between 2016 and 2017. Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid in the state, West Virginia’s uninsured rate was 13.4 percent, with 255,000 people without health insurance coverage.
“For far too many families in West Virginia, without Medicaid expansion, health care is out of reach,” WVCBP senior policy analyst Sean O’Leary said. “Not only has Medicaid expansion increased access to health care for hundreds of thousands of West Virginians so they can stay healthy and live productive lives, but the expansion provided a much-needed boost to our rural economies.”
West Virginia experienced some of the highest health coverage gains in the nation following the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid is the cornerstone of health care in this country, and it covers roughly more than a third of West Virginia’s population.
Medicaid helps about 500,000 people in West Virginia who are struggling to make ends meet, and since the state expanded it in 2014, it’s impact has continued to grow until now.
Nationally, the share of Americans without health insurance dropped from 13.3 percent in 2013 to 8.8 percent in 2016, falling in every year and for virtually every racial, ethnic, gender, education and income group that the Census data covers. Some 13.7 million fewer Americans were uninsured in 2016 than 2013. In 2017, the rate of uninsured Americans remained the same at 8.8 percent, or 28.5 million people.
“It is troubling on many fronts to see the positive health care trends reversed in West Virginia and stalled on a national level,” O’Leary said. “Making sure people have access to quality, affordable health care builds stronger, healthier communities. We need to again reverse the trend, stabilize the health care marketplace and ensure signing up for coverage is easy. This means keeping barriers from being erected that block access to health insurance, such as work requirements and drug testing for Medicaid, and keeping protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”