State makes ‘good progress’ on lowering uninsured rate

The share of Wisconsinites without health insurance fell sharply last year and is tied for the sixth lowest in the country, according to new federal data.

The Census Bureau data shows Wisconsin’s uninsured rate dropped to 5.7 percent last year, down from 7.3 percent in 2014 and 9.1 percent in 2013. The number of Wisconsinites without health coverage dropped to 323,000 last year, down nearly 38 percent from the 518,000 in 2013.

The numbers are “definitely good news,” said Jon Peacock, the research director at the liberal-leaning Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. And they can partly be attributed to Wisconsin’s above-average enrollment numbers in plans, with Milwaukee winning a White House enrollment challenge this year.

But the group renewed its call for Gov. Scott Walker to accept an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which gave states money to increase their Medicaid coverage to adults whose incomes are below 133 percent of the poverty level.

“We’ve made good progress, but I’m concerned that we’re going to be stuck where we are if we don’t expand BadgerCare to cover more adults,” Peacock said.

Walker has rejected that federal money, though his plan expanded Medicaid coverage to childless adults under the poverty level who were previously uninsured.

“Wisconsin is now tied for the sixth best uninsured rate in the nation thanks to Governor Walker’s reform plan, and the fact that Wisconsin’s uninsured rate dropped from 9.1 percent to 5.7 percent, a nearly 40 percent drop, is welcome news,” Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said.

The state’s 5.7 percent uninsured rate tied with Rhode Island and was significantly lower than the national one of 9.4 percent. Massachusetts had the lowest rate at 2.8 percent, while Texas had the highest at 17.1 percent.

See the data

–By Polo Rocha,