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September 17, 2013

Kids Gain Big When It Comes to Health Care, but Adults Still Struggling

Latest Census data show why expanding Medicaid is critical for Virginia

The number of children in Virginia without health insurance has fallen dramatically in recent years thanks to coverage options available through public programs, but that trend stands in sharp contrast to the experience of adults in the state.

Between 2000 and 2012 the number of uninsured children declined from 161,000 to 109,000, a drop of 33 percent, according to Census Bureau data released today. These gains were due largely to the success of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), launched in 1998. CHIP, along with Medicaid, combined to cover 450,000 children in 2012.

By contrast, more than 900,000 adults under the age of 65 in Virginia lacked insurance in 2012, compared to just 555,000 in 2000. That’s largely because private insurance coverage – in particular, job-based coverage – declined during this period in the state. In fact, the percentage of Virginians getting health insurance through their job declined to 64 percent from 73 percent over that time period.


In addition, it’s much more difficult for adults to qualify for public health insurance in Virginia than children. That’s because the state limits coverage options for adults to only the deeply poor. For example, under the state’s current Medicaid thresholds, parents in a family of three who make more than $6,000 a year aren’t eligible. And adults with no children are essentially ineligible for insurance coverage no matter how little they make.

Today’s data shows why it is more important than ever for Virginia’s leaders to address this problem. But they have yet to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid to cover nearly 400,000 additional Virginians, most of whom are working.

Expanding Medicaid is particularly important since only some adults will be able to qualify for tax credits to purchase insurance through the new insurance marketplaces starting October 1. But not all will. Those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to qualify for financial help in the new marketplace will be left out in the cold with no coverage options.

State lawmakers have created a coverage gap that will leave hundreds of thousands of Virginians without health insurance. To really the get the job done, Virginia needs to expand Medicaid.

–Massey Whorley, Senior Policy Analyst

The Commonwealth Institute

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