A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Uninsured in Massachusetts Still Exist and Face Daunting Challenges

Uninsured in Massachusetts Still Exist and Face Daunting Challenges

March 13, 2013

While Massachusetts has the lowest uninsurance rate in the nation (4.8% for adults age 19-64 and ~1% for children 18 and under), people continue to experience periods of uninsurance. We now know a lot more about the remaining uninsured in Massachusetts thanks to a brand new report issued by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation and the Urban Institute.

The report goes into impressive detail about who the uninsured are and what challenges they face.  Perhaps even more importantly, the report suggests outreach strategies that state agencies, policymakers, and other stakeholders can use in their efforts to insure hard-to-reach populations.

The most revealing statistic from the report shows that 10.6% of all adults (age 19-64) have been uninsured at some point during the past twelve months. At the HCFA HelpLine, we speak with thousands of uninsured Massachusetts residents every year who are seeking help obtaining health insurance, or assistance understanding their coverage options. Many of these people experience periods of uninsurance due to situations beyond their control.

I was presented with an example of one of these situations while fielding calls on our HelpLine last week. Laurinda, an uninsured woman reached out to us after her COBRA health insurance expired. She applied for subsidized health insurance through the state and was waiting for a response when she contacted me. During this brief period of uninsurance she had fallen and broken a bone. She went to the only place she could be seen right away – the emergency room – and was told she needed surgery that could cost her $15,000 up front. We assisted her in securing subsidized care so that she could get the surgery she desperately needed.

Here’s what Laurinda wrote to us when she finally got the insurance she needed:

"This injury and my inability to get health care have been depressing and distressing.My attempts to navigate the system had hit a dead-end and my lack of familiarity with the process was incredibly frustrating. Your knowledge, patience and understanding gave me hope during a very bleak time. I am grateful for you and your work--you do it well and with fabulous results quickly.”

That’s why we do what we do.

But what about the remaining uninsured that cannot access the health care services they need? The financial and health risks of uninsurance are well documented in this report and others. Affordable Care Act implementation gives Massachusetts resources to reinvest in outreach, education, and enrollment services for the hard-to-reach communities this report highlights as key to health reform’s success. We look forward to working with state partners (all of you!) to ensure (and insure) uninterrupted access to quality, affordable health care for all Massachusetts residents.

-Kate Bicego