In 2019, Virginia Led the Nation in Expanding Health Insurance Coverage

Sep 15, 2020

New numbers out Tuesday from the Census Bureau show that in a single year the number of Virginians without health insurance dropped by .9-percent, the largest drop of any state in the country.  


That dip was between 2018 and 2019. And while it may seem like a small number, Freddy Mejia, a policy analyst at the left-leaning Commonwealth Institute, says it translates to health insurance for a lot of people. 

“Just for reference there’s around 8 million people in Virginia,” Mejia explains. “If we think about just 1-percent of that, we’re looking at roughly 80,000 people.” 

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Virginia is the only state in the country with such a significant decrease in the share of uninsured residents. 

What happened in 2019? Virginia lawmakers made it easier to enroll in Medicaid, the state-run health insurance program. Taken together, public health insurance programs Medicaid and Medicare are largely responsible for the increase in insurance coverage. The increases in the public programs also came as the number of people enrolled in private health insurance dropped.

 

Overall, the improvements in insurance rates brings Virginia on par with the national average. As of the end of 2019, Virginia's uninsurance rate was 7.9%. About two dozen states still fare better. 

“We as a state are really catching up to a lot of states that were very proactive about the ACA and Medicaid expansion and setting up their own state based exchanges,” says Mejia.

The numbers from the Census, although newly released, are still almost a year behind. According to the state agency that keeps track, Medicaid enrollment has continued to grow in 2020.

 This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.