Oklahoma Has Second-Highest Rate Of Residents Without Health Insurance
Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City)
Sep. 16--Oklahoma's rate of residents with no health insurance remained the second-highest in the nation in 2019, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday that show 553,000 people in the state had no coverage for any part of last year.
The state's uninsured rate was 14.3%, up from 14.2% in 2018, according to the annual report on health insurance coverage in the United States. Texas continued to have the highest rate of uninsured, with 18.4% of residents lacking coverage in 2019.
Seven states had rates topping 12%. The national rate was 9.2% in 2019. Of the seven states with rates above 12%, only Alaska has expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Oklahomans voted in June to amend the state constitution to expand Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people. That expansion could mean coverage for about 200,000 state residents currently without insurance after it is implemented in 2021.
Dr. George Monks, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said Tuesday, "Affordable, accessible insurance is something all Oklahomans should have, especially in the midst of a pandemic. While we at the Oklahoma State Medical Association are disheartened approximately 14% of Oklahomans are still uninsured, we remain hopeful the recent passage of Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma can help reverse this devastating trend.
"With the implementation of State Question 802, our state has a unique opportunity to close the gap in access to care that's kept so many Oklahomans from leading healthier lives."
Carly Putnam, policy director for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, which has advocated for years for Medicaid expansion, said the data released Tuesday "confirms what we already know -- that too many Oklahomans still can't afford to see a doctor or fill a prescription, and Oklahomans deserve better.
"Implementing Medicaid expansion in 2021 should put a significant dent in these numbers. To ensure we're maximizing that opportunity, Gov. (Kevin) Stitt and lawmakers should be sure to prioritize an efficient, effective expansion that will get Oklahomans the health care that they need, not needless bureaucracy."
Patti Davis, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said, "It comes as no surprise that Oklahoma's uninsured ranking holds steady at No. 2. With the passage of SQ 802 in June of this year, we know addressing the state's uninsured rate matters to Oklahomans. It will be critical for the Legislature to get the implementation of Medicaid expansion right in the next legislative session and then it will take a couple of years for our numbers to improve as people enroll.
"During the pandemic, Oklahomans have become more aware of the value of health care coverage for our neighbors."
According to the Census Bureau figures, about 3.3 million of the state's residents had health insurance at some point in 2019, while 553,000 never had it. About two-thirds of those who had coverage got it through private sources, mostly through employers, while others bought it directly or received it from TriCare, which is part of the U.S. military's health care system.
Of the public health insurance programs, Medicare accounted for the highest number of Oklahomans last year, about 724,000.
The uninsured rates in all states have dropped since 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was approved. Oklahoma's uninsured rate in 2010 was 18.9%, while the national rate that year was 15.5%, the Census Bureau reported.
Using tax subsidies, the law makes it cheaper for some Americans to purchase private insurance directly if they don't get it through an employer or qualify for a public program.
The Census Bureau uses two surveys for its annual report on health insurance, its Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement and the American Community Survey.
The pandemic, which has caused the unemployment rate to more than double in Oklahoma this year, may also result in a higher rate of uninsured people. Medicaid numbers have risen dramatically in recent months, even before expansion is implemented.
Total enrollment in SoonerCare, the state's Medicaid program, topped 877,000 in July, up from 785,000 in February, according to figures from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.