In South Florida, as the rest of the nation, residents made significant gains in health coverage in 2014 during the first year of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, according to new data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
But despite the coverage gains, Florida continued to lag behind other states with the nation’s third largest rate of uninsured residents at 16.6 percent, or an estimated 3.2 million people. Only Texas and Alaska had higher rates of uninsured residents in 2014.
Still, the takeaway from the new Census data is clear for Nick Duran, Florida director for Enroll America, a group that advocates for greater coverage under the health law also known as Obamacare.
“People are hungry for affordable health coverage,” he said.
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Nationally, the Census report found that the uninsured rate dropped in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to 10.4 percent of the population, or 33 million people in 2014 — down from 13.3 percent, or about 42 million people in 2013.
In South Florida, the rates of uninsured in 2014 were even higher than the rest of the state: about 22 percent, or an estimated 580,000 residents in Miami-Dade. In Broward County, 18 percent, or roughly 330,000 people had no coverage, according to the Census. The data does not identify whether Census respondents are undocumented immigrants.
250,000 Miami-Dade and Broward residents gained health insurance in 2014
Among the groups making the greatest coverage gains in Miami-Dade and Broward in 2014 were Hispanics and people who lived in households earning between $25,000 and $49,999 a year, according to the data.
In Miami-Dade, about 24 percent of Hispanics, or about 428,000 people, remained uninsured compared with 32 percent or 554,000 in 2013. In Broward, about 23 percent of Hispanics, or 116,000 people remained uninsured in 2014 compared with 29 percent or nearly 145,000 in 2013.
Another factor affecting the ability of Floridians to gain coverage: the state’s refusal to expand eligibility for Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income Americans.
Along with residents of the other 25 states that did not expand eligibility for Medicaid as of January 2014, Floridians living in poverty remained uninsured at a higher rate — and saw smaller gains in coverage — than Americans who lived in the 24 states that opened their public health insurance program to all low-income adults.
The Census report found that Medicaid coverage increased nationally by 6.7 million people. But the data cannot be used to identify how many Floridians would be newly eligible for Medicaid if the state were to expand eligibility for the program, said Marina Vornovitsky, chief of the health and disability statistics branch for the Census Bureau.
Still, adults ages 18 to 64 made up the largest numbers of uninsured residents in both counties in 2014, with an estimated 520,000 in Miami-Dade and about 285,000 in Broward lacking coverage.
States with Highest Rates of Uninsured in 2014
Texas, 19.1 percent (5 million)
Alaska, 17.2 percent (122,000)
Florida, 16.6 percent (3.2 million)
States with Lowest Rates of Uninsured in 2014
Massachusetts, 3.3 percent (219,000)
Vermont, 5 percent (31,000)
District of Columbia, 5.3 percent (34,000)
Source: U.S. Census Bureau