New data on health insurance coverage released by the U.S. Census Bureau reveal the continuation of two troubling trends in New Hampshire. First, the number of Granite Staters without health insurance coverage has grown considerably since the close of the twentieth century. Second, that development, in turn, appears largely to be the result of a substantial decline in the number of New Hampshire residents who receive health insurance coverage through their employers.
For the period 2011-2012, approximately 158,500 New Hampshire residents under the age of 65 – or 14.1 percent of that segment of the population – went without health insurance coverage. (The Census Bureau recommends using two-year averages when relying on data from the Current Population Survey to make comparisons over time at the state level.) This represents an increase in the number of non-elderly people without health insurance of about 28,900 since 2009-2010 or a 2.7 percentage point decrease in the rate of insurance. In fact, over this most recent period, New Hampshire was only one of three states to experience a statistically significant increase in its uninsurance rate.
While a variety of factors may have contributed to this situation, one of the leading causes appears to be the decline in employer-sponsored health insurance in New Hampshire. In 2011-2012, roughly 784,300 residents under the age of 65 received health insurance coverage through their employer (or the employer of a family member). In other words, about 70 percent of all Granite Staters in this age group received coverage in this fashion. Yet, this is significantly lower than the 827,200 residents – or 73.1 percent — that received coverage this way in 2009-2010 and lower still than the comparable amount for 1999-2000, when it was about 869,800.
New Hampshire has an opportunity to reduce dramatically the number of Granite Staters who are forced to live without health insurance. If it were to accept the billions of dollars in funds being offered to it by the federal government, it could extend Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands of residents as early as January 2014. Given these trends, it shouldn’t wait any longer.