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Rhode Island uninsured rate drops by more than half since 2012; 50,000 people lack insurance


CRANSTON, Rhode Island — The number of uninsured people in Rhode Island has dropped by more than half since 2012, according to a survey released Thursday by the state's health insurance exchange.

Fewer than 50,000 people in Rhode Island now lack health insurance, compared with 113,000 in 2012, said Anya Rader Wallack, director of HealthSource RI. The rate of uninsured people dropped from 11 percent in 2012 to 5 percent in 2015, the survey found.

Wallack said during a news conference that the numbers show President Obama's health care overhaul is working.

"The combination of the expansion of Medicaid and the creation of the exchange have had a major impact, in terms of being able to enroll people in coverage," she said.

Some Rhode Island lawmakers, citing the costs of the state exchange, have pushed to end it and use the federal system instead. Wallack said staffers at Rhode Island's exchange are better equipped than those at the federal level to find pockets of uninsured Rhode Islanders and then get them enrolled.

The phone survey, conducted in the spring, included responses from 12,000 people and 5,000 households. It had a margin of error of less than 1 percentage point, according to the exchange.

It also showed that 3.2 percent of respondents said they didn't get medical care because they were unable to afford it, down from 4.9 percent in 2012. The percentage of people who said they delayed or did not get mental health care fell to 1.3 percent, from 2.5 percent.

But the percentage of respondents who said they delayed or did not get care because a provider was not available remained steady at 5.4 percent; 3.3 percent of respondents said they delayed or did not get care because their provider did not accept their insurance.

The uninsured population in the state is younger, male-dominated and disproportionately adults without children, Wallack said. Many of the uninsured said they were not enrolling in the state program because of the cost or because they didn't think they were eligible.

She said the numbers show they must focus on targeting people who still need to enroll in an insurance plan on the exchange or through Medicaid, and also to work with employers to expand and make it easier for them to maintain coverage for their employees through the exchange. Officials are also looking at ways to lower costs across the entire health care system.

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