CHIA Report: Mass Uninsurance Rate Low. But Costs Still a Barrier to Care
The recently released 2017 Massachusetts Health Insurance Survey from the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) found that at only 3.7 percent, the uninsurance rate in the Commonwealth remains well below the rest of the nation. Nevertheless, insurance coverage does not automatically translate into health care access, and with nearly one in ten Massachusetts residents underinsured, it is clear there is more to the story of Bay Staters’ ability to get the care they need when they need it.
CHIA considers survey respondents “underinsured” if they had health insurance coverage all year but spent 10 percent or more of their family income on family out-of-pocket health care expenses in the past twelve months. More than 12 percent of respondents over age 65 fell were considered underinsured, compared to 8.2 percent of non-elderly adults and 8 percent of children up to age 18. CHIA reports that the statewide underinsurance rate was 8.8 percent.
High co-pays and deductibles along with services that simply aren’t covered by their insurance cause Massachusetts’ underinsured to delay and avoid receiving the care they need. Over a quarter of respondents reported an unmet need for medical or dental care in the past 12 months due to cost. Proving the point that coverage does not ensure access, CHIA reports that 65.2 percent of these respondents had health insurance at the time. Furthermore, 78 percent of respondents with medical debt had incurred all medical bills while they and their family were insured.
While we can be proud of the progress made since passage of the Commonwealth’s universal health coverage law in 2006, it is clear that even with health insurance coverage, cost remains a barrier to the health care that makes and keeps us well.