Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Health Coverage in N.J. at an Apex

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Health Coverage in N.J. at an Apex

Article excerpt

The number of people without health insurance in New Jersey has fallen to its lowest level since 1990, dropping more than a third even before the late March surge in insurance sign-ups, according to a report released on Thursday.

An estimated 430,000 people in New Jersey gained coverage from October through March, said the report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy.

The survey involved adults younger than 65 -- those who purchased coverage on the federal insurance marketplace or directly from an insurance company, as well as those who obtained Medicaid coverage through a county welfare office or via the state's online application. It was based on a small sample of the population.

Previous federal data -- showing that under the Affordable Care Act, more than 151,000 New Jersey residents signed up for health plans and an additional 98,000 enrolled in Medicaid by March 31 -- referred only to those who obtained coverage through HealthCare.gov, the federal website. It was an exact count.

"We know there was a lot less investment in outreach and public education in New Jersey than in other places, like New York," said Joel Cantor, director of the Rutgers Center and an author of the report. "They probably had $10 invested for every $1 in New Jersey. But we did about as well as New York in terms of the percentage of uninsured who got coverage."

The number of New Jersey residents who gained coverage by the end of the Affordable Care Act's first enrollment period on April 1 probably exceeds 430,000 because the survey was completed March 6.

"These findings suggest that uninsurance in New Jersey is at its lowest level since 1990," the study authors said.

"It's exciting and an encouraging trend," said Katherine Hempstead of the Johnson Foundation, a co-author. "But we need to see some more quarters of data and then see then see the census data to really see the trends."

It's unknown, for example, whether the newly insured will pay their premiums and keep their coverage from one year to the next, for example.

The survey is part of a national monitoring project by the Urban Institute on the effects of health reform. …

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