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Health coverage increases in New Mexico

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

The percentage of New Mexicans without health insurance continues to drop, but the state’s 14.5 percent uninsured rate is still among the 10 highest in the nation.

Figures the U.S. Census Bureau released this week show the uninsured population of New Mexico declined from 18.6 percent in 2013 to 14.5 percent in 2014, the year the state’s Medicaid expansion took effect.

The statistics are from the annual American Community survey, which measures income, poverty and health insurance.

Kentucky, which also expanded its Medicaid program, had the greatest decline, at 5.8 percentage points.

Still, New Mexico’s 4.1 percentage point drop in the uninsured population was among the largest nationwide; only eight other states had decreases of more than 4 percentage points.

In the years immediately before the Medicaid expansion, the number of people lacking insurance in New Mexico was around 20 percent of the population. Gov. Susana Martinez announced in January 2013 that New Mexico would accept federal funds to expand the Medicaid program to cover any adult earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

People began enrolling in October of that year, and medical services for those Medicaid recipients began in January 2014.

By mid-July 2014, New Mexico’s percentage of uninsured had dropped to 15.2, according to a Gallup Poll.

Despite the declines, New Mexico still has a large number of people without insurance, tied in eighth place with Mississippi.

All the other states, except Nevada, that had an uninsured population of more than 14 percent did not expand their Medicaid programs. In Nevada, 15.2 percent of the population lacked insurance in 2014.

The Census Bureau report showed the number of uninsured people nationally dropped by 8.8 million to 33 million, or 10.4 percent of the population.

Massachusetts had the lowest percentage of uninsured residents, at 3.3. Texas, which said no to the Medicaid expansion, had the highest, with 19.1 percent.

The nation’s official poverty rate was at 14.8 percent, a small change from 2013. New Mexico’s poverty rate was 21 percent, according to the report, down from 21.9 percent in 2013.

The report also showed that New Mexico’s income was below the national level. The median household income in New Mexico was $44,803 in 2014, compared with the national median of $53,657.