For Immediate Release: September 15, 2020
Contact: Sean O’Leary, 304-400-8899
Charleston, WV – The number of West Virginians without health insurance stayed the same in 2019, further stalling the historic gains made under the Affordable Care Act even before the COVID-19 economic and health crisis caused job and health insurance loss for tens of thousands of West Virginians.
Today’s data release shows that 120,000 West Virginians lacked health insurance in 2019, a statistically insignificant change from 2018. West Virginia’s uninsured rate was 6.7 percent in 2019. Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the state’s expansion of Medicaid, West Virginia’s uninsured rate was 14.6 percent, with 266,000 people without health insurance coverage.
Just as overall progress in health coverage for all West Virginians has stalled, our state’s children have seen an increase in the uninsured rate as well. Our new policy brief out today highlights how West Virginia can build upon the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to reverse course and cover all kids. Read more here.
“While the Affordable Care Act resulted in significant progress in covering many West Virginians and boosting our state’s economy and health care workforce, there are still families who lack affordable health coverage for their children. A CHIP buy-in would leverage a successful existing health program to ensure quality, affordable health coverage for all children by building on the successes of the Affordable Care Act,” said Sean O’Leary, senior policy analyst and report author.
He went on to say, “The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the importance of affordable health coverage options that are not tied to employment. A CHIP buy-in could provide stability for families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid or traditional CHIP but who don’t have affordable employer-sponsored coverage.”
While concerning, the 2019 data is already out-of-date as many West Virginians have lost health coverage due to the COVID-19 crisis and the current uninsured rate is likely much higher. As many as 100,000 West Virginians, including both those who lost their jobs and dependents of displaced workers including children, lost their health coverage this year at the height of the COVID-19 economic crisis. If all of those West Virginians remain uninsured for a length of time, the state’s 2020 uninsured rate could spike to over 12 percent. A CHIP buy-in program could help mitigate some of that harm.