The number of Indiana residents without health insurance fell by about 84,000 last year, according to new Census Bureau figures that have left state officials puzzled.
The decline was welcome news, but it’s hard to explain, said Mitch Roob, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, who called the numbers “surprisingly high.”
The Census Bureau’s new American Community Survey, released last week, also reported that the number of Hoosiers living in poverty continued to rise in 2006.
That report showed that 748,000 Hoosiers, nearly one in eight state residents, were without health insurance in 2006, down from 832,000 the year before.
“I’d like to take credit for it, but I can’t,” Roob said, noting that enrollment in the state’s Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance programs did not rise nearly that much.
Despite the one-year drop, Roob said the bigger picture tells a different story. Nationally, the number of uninsured Americans increased from 44.8 million to 47 million last year.
“If you look at things over a 10-year period, “In 1994, we had the second-lowest uninsured rate in the country, and now we’re somewhere in the middle of the pack.”
He said that’s why the state is pushing ahead with efforts to expand health care coverage through several state-sponsored programs, including the Healthy Indiana Plan scheduled to begin in January.
That plan will use revenue from a cigarette tax increase that took effect in July to cover as many as 130,000 Hoosiers who earn too much to qualify for other state-sponsored plans but lack access to insurance through an employer or cannot afford to purchase coverage on their own.
That program will be offered to residents with annual incomes of up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level _ about $20,400 for an individual and $41,300 for a family of four.
As many as 350,000 Hoosiers could qualify, but the roughly $200 million that will be raised annually from the 44-cents-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax will cover only about 130,000.
The Healthy Indiana Plan requires participants to pay a small premium, up to 5 percent of their adjusted gross income, up to a maximum of $1,100 , and provides $500 in free preventive care each year.
Roob said initial data on cigarette tax collections from July indicate the hike will raise enough to fund the project at planned levels. Indiana has about 1.1 million smokers, or nearly a quarter of the adult population. That’s the fifth-highest percentage in the United States.
The tax increase generated about $12 million in additional revenue in July, which Roob said “is right where we thought it would be.”
With the new Healthy Indiana Plan, the state will be providing free or subsidized health care coverage to slightly more than 1 million Hoosiers.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star,
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