Expanded health care covers more young Marylanders

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By Kelsi Loos

Capital News Service

WASHINGTON- The percentage of young Marylanders with health insurance rose to almost 82% last year from 75% in 2009, a rate much higher than the national average, according to data released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

Experts generally attribute the overall national increase in health coverage of adults aged 19 to 25 to the Affordable Care Act, which in 2010 expanded Medicaid and private health care coverage to that age group. But it is not quite as clear why the increase of insured in Maryland rose at a rate higher than the national average.

On Wednesday, state Budget Secretary Eloise Foster told the Board of Public Works that increased coverage of young adults was one of the reasons her agency was seekingĀ  millions more for state employee health benefits. The ACA allows people under 26 to enroll in a parent’s health plan.

Nationally, the insured rate of adults 25-34 rose from 68.3% in 2009 to 71.8% in 2011, while in Maryland the rate rose from 75 to 81.7%.

“Maryland’s economy has been better than other states and, obviously, people can have health care when they have a job,” said Gene Ransom of MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society. He said he did not know why the state’s insured rate increased faster than the national average.

Rates of uninsured vary by county

There was a large difference in the rate of uninsured among Maryland counties in 2011, the data showed. Carroll, Calvert and Anne Arundel counties had the lowest rates of uninsured people as a whole at 4.7, 5.7 and 6.8% respectively. Montgomery, Wicomico and Cecil counties had the highest uninsured rates at 11.7, 11.4 and 10.2 percent.

With the economy still recovering nationwide, more people have relied on public health insurance nationally, according to a separate study released last week by the Census Bureau.

Genevieve Kenney, Urban Institute senior fellow and economist said the increase reflected a general expansion of government health insurance programs, a trend she expects to continue.

For the first time in a decade, between 2010 and 2011 the rate of people covered by private insurance remained steady.

Leighton Ku, professor of health policy at the George Washington University, said the stability of private insurance coverage may also be due to the Affordable Care Act.

“If you look at the coverage statistics for young people, private insurance went up… a lot of people think that it is an effect of the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

He also cited the expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the relatively level cost of medical care as further reasons for the steady rate of people covered by private insurance.

MarylandReporter.com contributed to this story.