Friday Aug. 30, 2013
Much as it sometimes seems, the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) isn’t just some abstraction for Republicans and Democrats in Washington D.C. to bicker and spar over.
I’m in the midst of digging into the issue, mainly as it pertains to Elkhart County, and have come across a few numbers that help put the state of health care access here in relief. Obamacare is meant to increase the ranks of the insured, improve health care access. And to those in the health care industry — probably to most anyone involved in the issue – the figures show why some sort of health care overhaul/tweak/change is needed.
The uninsured: Of those younger than 65 in Elkhart County (171,876 people), 21 percent (36,179 people) are uninsured, according to U.S. Census Bureau Small Area Health Insurance Estimates for 2011, released on Thursday (look here). The rest have insurance. The tally only includes those younger than 65 because those 65 and over are covered by Medicare or Supplemental Security Income.
Uninsured and poor: Of those with earnings of 138 percent of the poverty level or less (47,441 people), 32 percent (15,197 people) lack insurance, according to the Census Bureau. The 138-percent level ($26,951 annually for a family of three in 2013) is significant because those earning less than the threshold would potentially be able to secure health care coverage through the proposed expansion of the Medicaid program, part of Obamacare. It’s not crystal clear if Indiana will allow the expansion, throwing into question whether the uncovered in the segment will be able to access insurance.
Another tally: The tally by EnrollAmerica.org (look here) shows 32,833 uninsured Elkhart County residents under 65, 19.7 percent of the overall total. Undocumented immigrants aren’t included in the total because they’d be ineligible for care under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. EnrollAmerica.org is a non-profit group formed to maximize the number of people tapping health coverage through the ACA.
Demographics of the uninsured: Of the 32,833 uninsured identified by EnrollAmerica.org, 59 percent (around 19,370) earn 138 percent of the poverty level or less. Twenty percent are 18 or younger. By race/ethnicity, 76 percent of the total are non-Hispanic whites, 11 are Black and 11 percent are Hispanic.
Yet another tally: A study by the Urban Institute show’s 44,000 without insurance in Elkhart County, a figure that would fall 52.3 percent to 21,000 with full implementation of ACA, including the Medicaid expansion. Look here and do a search for Elkhart, Ind.
Lots of numbers. The bottom line, though — there’s a sizable chunk of the population without health insurance, with questionable, sketchy access to health care.
I’ll be looking at numerous facets of Obamacare, mainly in connection with the planned roll-out of the overhaul. The individual mandate — the requirement that most people acquire health insurance if they don’t already have it — goes into effect Jan. 1. Enrollment in the new plans for those without coverage on planned health insurance exchanges starts in about a month, Oct. 1.
Tim Vandenack is a reporter at the Elkhart Truth newspaper in Elkhart, Ind., www.etruth.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-296-5884. Visit him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack.