The number of people without health insurance on Long Island and in New York State dropped substantially between 2013 and 2014, following the national trend, according a new report out Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Nassau County saw its uninsured population decline by 3.1 percentage points: from 9.1 percent, or 122,015 people, in 2013, to 6 percent, or 81,402 people, last year.
Suffolk's uninsured population decline was not as steep, going from 9.2 percent, or 136,487 people, in 2013 to 7.6 percent, or 112,774 people, a year later.
New York State saw its uninsured population drop by 2 percentage points during the period, from 10.7 percent of the population to 8.7 percent. That translated from just over 2 million people estimated to be without insurance in the state in 2013 to 1.69 million last year.
There's "no mystery there" about the drop in the uninsured, said Michael Zweig, an economics professor at Stony Brook University. "It's a testament to the importance of the act," Zweig said, referring to the Obama administration's controversial Affordable Care Act, which has survived several court challenges.
"What we see is that in the country, millions of people literally have gotten health care, and in New York it's more than 300,000," said Zweig, who also directs the university's Center for Study of Working Class Life.
Nationally, the number of uninsured declined by more than 8 million people, from 41.8 million, or 13.3 percent, in 2013 to 33 million, or 10.4 percent, in 2014, the bureau said. That one-year national decrease of 2.9 percentage points "represents the largest percentage-point decline in the uninsured rate" after a period of "relatively stable" rates between 2008 and 2013, Victoria Velkoff, the bureau's social, economic and housing statistics division chief, said during a news conference.
The New York State Health Department said in a statement Wednesday: "Today's news from the U. S. Census Bureau confirms that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to reduce the number of uninsured New Yorkers has been an overwhelming success, reducing the number of uninsured New Yorkers by nearly 400,0000 between 2013 and 2014."
The department added uninsured levels are expected to decline further this year and next.
The Census Bureau also reported no decline in the national poverty rate or any real increase in the median household income between 2013 and 2014. And the same held true for Long Island.
The nation's official poverty rate was 14.8 percent in 2014, the same as the revised 2013 rate, officials said. The bureau said an estimated 46.7 million people were living in poverty in 2014.
According to census data, Nassau's 2014 poverty rate was 6.4 percent; not statistically different from 6.1 percent in 2013. Suffolk's 2014 rate, 7.4 percent, remained essentially unchanged from its 2013 rate of 7.3 percent.
Gwen O'Shea, chief executive and president of the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island, called the drop in the uninsured a "huge win." Still, she added, "The impact of the recession is still being felt," as evidenced by the lack of change in the national poverty rate and median income.
"While there's been job growth, it's primarily in service industries," O'Shea said. "Those wages are not extremely high." She also noted the inadequacy of the federal government's poverty threshold, which was $24,008 for a family of four in 2014. "On Long Island it's almost four times that to cover . . . basic necessities."
And for the first time the bureau also released the supplemental poverty rate at the same time it released the official poverty rate, the latter of which is used to calculate government assistance. The 2014 supplemental poverty rate was 15.3 percent. Unlike the official rate, whose formula hasn't changed in 50 years, the supplemental poverty rate factors in government benefits, tax credits, regional housing costs, nondiscretionary work expenses and out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Additionally, the bureau reported real median household income was $53,700 in 2014, "not statistically different in real terms from the 2013 median," Velkoff said.
The 2014 median household income in Nassau was $99,035 and in Suffolk, $86,266, both figures were not considered statistically significant from the 2013 medians.