In Illinois last year, 7% of residents – about 875,000 people – had no health insurance coverage, according to US Census data released Thursday.
This number was up slightly from around 6.8% in 2020, although the margin of error this year is 0.2.
Nationally, about 8.6% of people were uninsured last year, according to data from the American Community Survey of the census.
It’s possible that Illinois’ uninsured rate has remained relatively stable due to federal protections put in place during the pandemic that were intended to make it easier for people to maintain coverage, said Stephani Becker, associate director of health care justice in Chicago. Shriver Center on Poverty Law.
During the pandemic, the federal government prohibited states that accepted additional Medicaid funding from kicking people out of Medicaid, which is state and federally funded health insurance for low-income people. In the pre-pandemic period, Medicaid coverage had to be renewed periodically, and some people lost it because they no longer qualified, and others because of administrative issues, such as not submitting documents.
Additionally, in 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill that increased and expanded subsidies that offset the monthly costs of health insurance purchased through the Affordable Care Act Exchange on healthcare.gov. These improved subsidies were recently extended to 2025, with the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act.
“These two things together are huge policy choices this administration has made that allow people to keep their current health coverage through Medicaid and get more affordable health coverage through the marketplace (Affordable Care Act),” Becker said. .
However, disparities remain.
The percentages of blacks and Latinos in Illinois without insurance were much higher than the percentage of whites without coverage. About 7.9% of black Illinois residents and 15.8% of Hispanics or Latinos had no insurance in 2021, compared to just 4.3% of whites.
“It’s a legacy of systemic inequities in health insurance in Illinois and across the country,” Becker said. Also, some people don’t have the ability to purchase insurance from their employer, she said.
In 2021, about 59% of Illinois residents obtained health insurance through their employer and about 35% obtained insurance through public programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid, according to the new report from census.
Although the number of people receiving Medicaid increased nationally last year, the percentage of people with private insurance, such as through their employer, has fallen, noted Sabrina Corlette, research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. . She said the cost of providing insurance has risen for employers, making it difficult for many to provide cover or leading them to pass some of the rising costs onto workers, for example through premiums. higher.
In Illinois, the percentage of uninsured people, by income, was highest among those with household incomes between $25,000 and $49,999. About 10.8% of people in this income group in Illinois were uninsured.
This may be because people in this range may not be eligible for Medicaid and may not realize that they can probably get coverage at a lower cost through the Affordable Care Act exchange due to subsidies. , Becker said. Or, it’s possible that even low-cost exchange coverage is still too expensive for them, she said.
“I talk to a lot of people who are worried. Health coverage is a constant concern for them,” Becker said. “They have done the math and are making choices. They feel like it’s a compromise between that, the food and the gas… Sometimes they don’t know what options are available to them.