Poverty data released last week by the US Census Bureau, through the American Community Survey (ACS), highlights the lingering impact the recession is having on low-income women, and the need for family support programs to help raise women out of poverty. We know that poverty has a direct impact on the health of women and their families, which is why programs like BadgerCare Plus are so important to low-income women.
An analysis by our partners at the National Women’s Law Center shows that in 2011, 13 percent of Wisconsin women lived in poverty. That number is much higher for our children, at 18.2 percent. More than one-third of black women in Wisconsin live in poverty, and all women of color in Wisconsin have higher poverty rates than the national average. These disparities are staggering – especially when we see that on average, women in Wisconsin are less likely to be in poverty than the US average.
The ACS data also included updated figures on health insurance coverage. In general, Wisconsinites are more likely to be covered by insurance than those in other states -we rank around 7th nationally. According to our analysis, women have maintained a similar uninsured rate in Wisconsin, at 7 percent in 2010 and 2011. Considering the continued decline of employer-sponsored coverage, and the slow economic recovery in Wisconsin, holding steady is not bad news. The success of BadgerCare in providing a safety net to those without employer coverage contributes to our uninsured number remaining at 7 percent.
The fact that so many Wisconsinites remain uninsured highlights the inaccessible and unaffordable health care options for Wisconsinites, particularly those discriminated against in the private market, like women and those with “pre-existing conditions,” which range from pregnancy to asthma to diabetes. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will protect these consumers and provide them with more options for care in 2014. In the meantime, HIRSP in Wisconsin provides care for those with pre-existing conditions. Additionally, even those with health insurance often cannot use it due to out of pocket cost. See this report from the Commonwealth Fund for more on affordability for women.
The real success and takeaway in these health insurance figures is due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – we saw a 2 percent decline in the uninsured rate for women 18-24 in Wisconsin, from 17 percent in 2010 to 15 percent in 2011. This trend was also realized on the national level. This can be largely attributed to the provision of the ACA allowing young women to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until they turn 26. We expect to see the rate of uninsured go down even further for all women when the other provisions of the ACA go into effect – including filling the gap in BadgerCare coverage (see WCCF’s top ten reasons to do this) and establishing robust health insurance Exchanges. These will provide more quality and affordable coverage options to Wisconsin women.