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City reports record number of Chicagoans with health insurance

Thursday, September 14, 2017
Crain's Chicago Business
by Nona Tepper

Chicago has reported its lowest-ever number of residents without health insurance, with nearly 91 percent of city residents insured in 2016, according to figures released this week from the U.S. Census' American Community Survey.

Just 9.6 percent, or about 256,000 people, remain uninsured in the city. American Indian and Alaskan natives were the highest population without insurance in Chicago in 2016, with nearly 26 percent remaining uninsured.

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Andrea Kovach, a Chicago-based senior attorney at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, credits the rise in health care to the Affordable Care Act, expanded Medicaid program and the Children's Health Insurance Program. She pointed to year-over-year decreases in the number of uninsured people with incomes at least 138 percent below the poverty line, which qualify them for Medicaid expansion or subsidized health care. At least 86 percent of Chicagoans in this income bracket were insured in 2016.

"The numbers are going in the right direction, it's a historic low," Kovach says. "It just in my mind underscores the need to have enrollment assistance continue for folks un-enrolled to be enrolled, and for all of the subsidies to be available so that this insurance can actually be affordable."

Like most of the Midwest, Illinois has a low rate of those uninsured, less than 8 percent. Chicago residents' health care coverage is most similar to nearby St. Louis, where slightly more residents are insured. Neighboring states of Indiana and Missouri reported a higher percentage of those uninsured, between 8 and 9.9 percent.

Locally, more Cook County residents are signing up for health insurance, too. More than 25,000 people in Cook County gained insurance between 2015 and 2016. Cook County has a higher percentage of those insured than Chicago, but the lowest percent among such surrounding counties as southwest Will County; western DuPage County; northern Lake County, Ill.; and southern Lake County, Ind.

Residents with health insurance increased across all of these counties except DuPage, which reported nearly 5,000 less people insured in 2016 than in 2015. DuPage reported an almost equal loss in population, however.



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