SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

December 13, 2013

Data show health disparities among states

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Residents in some parts of the U.S. are signing up for health care coverage at a significantly greater rate than others through the new online insurance marketplaces now operating in every state.

The discrepancy may trace back to the political leanings of their elected leaders.

Newly released federal figures show more people are picking private insurance plans or being routed to Medicaid programs in states with Democratic leaders who have fully embraced the federal health care law than in states where Republican elected officials have derisively rejected what they call “Obamacare.”

On one side of the political divide are a dozen mostly Democratic leaning states, including California, Minnesota and New York. They have both expanded Medicaid for lower-income adults and started their own health insurance exchanges for people to shop for federally subsidized private insurance.

On the other side are two dozen conservative states, such as Texas, Florida and Missouri. They have both rejected the Medicaid expansion and refused any role in running an online insurance exchange, leaving that entirely to the federal government.

The new federal figures, providing a state-by-state breakdown of enrollment in the new health care program through November, showed that the political differences among leaders over the initiative are turning into differences in participation among the uninsured.

Even though many conservative states have higher levels of poverty and more people without health coverage, fewer of them may receive new insurance, said Dylan Roby, an assistant public health professor at the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California, Los Angeles.

With the patchwork implementation of the federal health care law, “the gap will exacerbate,” Roby said

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department reported this week that 364,682 people had signed up for private coverage through the new health insurance marketplaces as of Nov. 30 and an additional 803,077 had been determined eligible for Medicaid.

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