UNINSURED IN VA: A new Gallup poll suggests Obamacare isn’t helping uninsured rates in Virginia.
By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — When President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act was introduced in 2009, supporters touted it as a surefire way to reduce the number of uninsured Americans.
But, so far in the Old Dominion, that hasn’t held true — at least, not according to a new Gallup poll. Virginia is one of only three states where the percentage of uninsured people has actually crept upwards, rather than dropped.
In 2013, 13.3 percent of Virginians were uninsured. As of mid-2014, 13.4 percent of Virginians still had no health insurance, according to the poll.
Sure, Virginia isn’t expanding Medicaid — at least, not yet. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has asked Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Hazel to figure out a way around that after the General Assembly stubbornly rejected all forms of Medicaid expansion this year. Still, one of the other states with a higher uninsured rate — Iowa — expanded the government health care program. Kansas, the third state with a higher rate, didn’t expand Medicaid.
Virginia’s virtually stagnant uninsured rate isn’t because no one bothered to sign up. As of May, more than 216,000 Virginians had enrolled in the federal health care exchange.
Yevgeniy Feyman, a health care policy fellow with the Manhattan Institute, said there could be a number of factors behind the higher rate of uninsured Virginians, including the commonwealth’s decision not to expand Medicaid and the Gallup poll’s reported margin of error rate of between plus or minus 1 to 3.5 percentage points.
“There’s a pretty big margin of error unfortunately,” Feyman told Watchdog.org.
It’s also highly likely that many who signed up for Obamacare already had insurance.
“The biggest explanatory factor is going to be that people were previously insured,” Feyman said.
Feyman said there could be a “cultural argument,” too. In states where Obamacare is unpopular, like Virginia, signing up for the ACA could be a bit taboo.
“You have people who might be more skeptical about enrolling,” he said.
Despite the ACA’s promise to lower the cost of health insurance, premiums have risen in Virginia.
Out of six different age and gender groups, premiums have only dropped for the average 64-year-old man in Virginia since Obamacare went into effect, according to the Manhattan Institute. The average 27-year-old man has seen the highest premium spike at 67 percent. The Manhattan Institute has tracked rate changes in each state for 27-year-olds, 40-year-olds and 64-year-olds of both genders.
— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be found on Twitter @kathrynw5.