MASSACHUSETTS: Number of Uninsured Residents Declines
With the economy booming, the number of Massachusetts residents lacking health insurance dropped by almost one-third over the last two years, the Boston Globe reports (Mishra, 8/25). According to a report released yesterday by the state's Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, an additional 158,000 Massachusetts residents gained access to health coverage during the past two years. More than 340,000 Massachusetts residents, 5.9% of the state's population, currently are uninsured, a decrease from 504,000 residents who lacked health coverage in 1998. Children also have benefitted from the boom, with only 2.8% of the state's children currently uninsured, compared to 5.5% in 1998. The state's Medicaid program, MassHealth, has contributed to the decline by enrolling 226,000 residents, including 83,000 children, since 1997 (AP/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 8/25). According to the report, one in 20 state residents were without health insurance in 1999, compared to one in six nationwide. Only one in 50 children in the state lacked insurance, compared to more than one in 10 nationwide.
Changes for All?
State officials attributed the positive figures to Massachusetts' "unique, medically focused, political climate," crediting Gov. Paul Cellucci (R) and private businesses as the "driving forces behind the change." State Department of Public Health Commissioner Howard Koh said, "This is the medical and public health capital of the world." Rick Lord, president of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, said, "There's always been a culture here among employers of providing coverage." Health specialists agreed, pointing out that in 1999, the number of state employers not offering coverage dropped from 10% to 7%. However, the report also showed that the majority of uninsured are the working poor, as more than two-thirds of those lacking health insurance were employed. Of those, nearly 70% had employers who elected not to offer health coverage for financial reasons. In addition, the report found that the number of African-American state residents lacking coverage was double that of whites, while the number of uninsured Latinos was triple, findings Cellucci called "unacceptable" (Boston Globe, 8/25).