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Data Reveals Impact Of The ACA On N.H.'s Uninsured

NHPR Staff

A new data set gives a bird’s eye view of New Hampshire’s uninsured residents – and how they stand to gain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The data itself is not shocking. State health officials and insurers alike know New Hampshire’s most rural communities have the highest rates of uninsured. But this is the first time that information has been aggregated into a map that viewers can navigate on a county-by-county basis.

"It's all about patterns of employment," says Jayme Simoes, spokesman for Covering New Hampshire, a federally funded campaign to promote the Affordable Care Act in the state. "There's a more diverse economy in the south than the north, but you also have a few people commuting to jobs in Massachusetts in the south. If you looked at a map of Maine, you'd find a similar [rural-urban] trend."

What the map does not show is that while the northern and western parts of the state have the highest numbers of uninsured, those areas also saw the biggest drops in uninsured during the first enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act.

Prior to so-called Obamacare, New Hampshire had relatively low rates of uninsured residents. This year the number of uninsured in the state dropped from about 150,000 to 100,000, and that number is expected to shrink again in 2015.

In order to avoid a penalty, uninsured adults had to purchase health insurance by May 1, 2014. But shoppers on the federal healthcare marketplace had limited options this year. Anthem was the only insurer on New Hampshire’s marketplace, and the insurer’s plans excluded 10 of the state’s 26 hospitals.

But when open enrollment begins on November 15, the exchange will be more crowded – five insurers will offer a combined 40 plans, with options for coverage in each of that state’s hospitals.

Much of the state’s uninsured population will be eligible for subsidies.

New Hampshire is also one of 26 states that opted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Data released today from the Department of Health and Human Services shows 21,500 residents are now signed up for Medicaid. The state expects that to grow to at least 50,000.

The biggest factor pushing new Americans to gain insurance this year was whether or not the state they live in expanded Medicaid.

Before joining NHPR in August 2014, Jack was a freelance writer and radio reporter. His work aired on NPR, BBC, Marketplace and 99% Invisible, and he wrote for the Christian Science Monitor and Northern Woodlands.
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