U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker recently tweeted the results of a study showing the percent of people without health insurance increasing in Mississippi as evidence that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not working in the state.
The tweet caught my attention because Wicker, a Tupelo Republican, served as chair of the state state Senate Public Health Committee in the 1990s before going to Washington, D.C., to serve in Congress and always has been viewed as being knowledgeable on health care issues.
The study Wicker cited was done by WalletHub, a social media company that allows people to shop for “smarter financial decisions” and does a litany of state rankings on various issues.
In this particular instance, WalletHub had taken data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a national nonprofit that focuses on health issues, and on other data to ascertain the number of uninsured in Mississippi and across the nation before and after the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – was fully enacted this past January.
The results are alarming in Mississippi.
According to WalletHub, the uninsured rate has increased from 18.1 percent pre-ACA to 21.6 percent now.
What is even more alarming is that Mississippi is the only state cited by WalletHub as having its uninsured rate increase after the ACA was enacted. Nationwide, according to WalletHub, the rate decreased from 17.8 percent before to 14.2 percent after the enactment of Obamacare. A couple of states saw their uninsured rate drop by more than 10 percent.
According to the study, only Texas now has a higher percentage of uninsured than does Mississippi.
Coincidentally, an study released by another group, the Commonwealth Fund, says that the percentage of uninsured among the poor had dropped significantly from 28 percent to 17 percent in the states that opted into a provision of the ACA allowing them to expand Medicaid to cover people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 per year for an individual.
In the states that did not expand Medicaid, there was basically no change in the percentage of uninsured among the poor.
About half the states have expanded Medicaid while about half, led by Republicans who opposed the Affordable Care Act, have not. Mississippi, of course, has not expanded Medicaid.
The Commonweatlh Fund, a foundation that focuses on health care improvements, concludes about 20 million people have gotten health insurance through ACA options.
There are numerous other studies indicating that the number of people without health insurance has decreased significantly since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act.
Gallup, for instance, shows that the rate of uninsured nationally has dropped from 18 percent to 13.4 percent, according to its latest survey. And it also shows lower rates of the uninsured in states that expanded Medicaid.
Interestingly, according to the aforementioned WalletHub study, in neighboring Arkansas, one of the few Southern states to expand Medicaid, the uninsured rate has dropped from 20.9 percent before the ACA to 13.8 percent now.
While Mississippi governmental leaders opted not to expand Medicaid, more than 62,000 Mississippians did opt to participate in Obamacare by purchasing health insurance, often with the help of federal subsides, on the health care exchange. Studies indicate that a vast majority of people who purchased insurance on the exchange did not have prior coverage.
Without the exchange, one could conclude Mississippi’s uninsured rate would be even higher.
Is that high rate of uninsured Mississippians a failure of the Affordable Care Act, as Sen. Wicker tweeted, or a failure of state leaders?
BOBBY HARRISON is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau chief. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (601) 946-9931.