Census data show Minnesotans still struggling – but health care reform brings hope

Hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans living without health insurance have a great deal to gain when better and more affordable insurance becomes available in 2014, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. New data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that the need is great: approximately 420,000 Minnesotans (9.1 percent) under age 65 were uninsured in 2012.

The percentage of Minnesotans without health insurance has been declining in recent years, largely because more people qualified for public coverage as incomes have declined during the past two recessions.

The latest Census data show that the percentage of Minnesotans living below the poverty line has risen significantly since the recession of 2001, increasing from 6.9 percent in 2000 to 11.4 percent in 2012 (the high point was 11.9 percent in 2011). Likewise, the state’s median income has fallen from $63,671 in 2000 to just $58,906 in 2012.

With poverty rising and incomes falling, families struggle to find affordable health insurance options. It’s not surprising that many Minnesotans put buying food, paying for housing and making a car payment ahead of purchasing health care coverage.

Even more troubling is that Minnesotans of color are less likely to have health insurance than their white counterparts. Although just 6.9 percent of all white Minnesotans lacked health insurance in 2012, the numbers were far worse for communities of color: 9.0 percent of Asian-Americans, 13.3 percent of African-Americans, 17.9 percent of American Indians and 27.5 percent of Hispanic/Latinos were uninsured.

These racial disparities in health insurance have very real implications for Minnesota’s communities of color. Access to meaningful health insurance keeps families healthier, helps them maintain stable employment, and makes it less likely that a health care crisis will become a personal financial crisis.

Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act creates new opportunities for all Minnesotans to enroll in affordable and meaningful health insurance. Starting October 1, Minnesotans without access to employer-sponsored insurance will be able to use MNsure (the state’s new online marketplace) to shop for high-quality health insurance policies. And many Minnesotans will find insurance more affordable thanks to expanded public health insurance options and federal premium tax credits.

The latest Census data may show Minnesota on a slow and uncertain path to economic recovery, but tens of thousands of Minnesotans will soon have the peace of mind that comes from having health insurance.

-Christina Wessel

About Christina Wessel

Christina served as the Minnesota Budget Project's deputy director until January 2014.
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