NAACP, Appleseed Legal Justice Center rally for Medicaid expansion in South Carolina (copy)

The uninsured rate in South Carolina dropped between 2013 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census. Thousands of people in this state were able to newly afford health insurance policies after the Affordable Care Act marketplace opened in late 2013. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Even though South Carolina leaders chose not to expand eligibility for the low-income Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured rate in the state still dropped significantly between 2013 and 2016, new census numbers show. 

In 2013, before coverage was available to purchase through the federal health insurance marketplace, the uninsured rate in South Carolina was 15.8 percent. By 2016, it had dropped to 10 percent. 

Nationally, the uninsured rate dropped by 5.9 percentage points between 2013 and 2016. The uninsured rate across the United States last year was 8.6 percent.

But many of the 31 states that expanded Medicaid eligibility saw much greater gains than South Carolina. 

In Kentucky, for example, the uninsured rate dropped from 14.3 percent in 2013 to 5.1 percent in 2016. In Nevada, the rate dropped by more than 9 percentage points.

In South Carolina, participation in the federal health insurance marketplace grew as the uninsured rate declined. On June 1, 2014, more than 98,000 South Carolinians were enrolled in a health plan through the federal marketplace, according to the S.C. Department of Insurance. In June of this year, that number had grown to about 183,500. 

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This number is relatively small compared with the majority of South Carolinians who are insured through their employers. Data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census  shows that this employer-sponsored coverage accounted for about 52 percent of all plans in South Carolina in 2016. 

Enrollment for 2018 Affordable Care Act plans will open on HealthCare.gov on Nov. 1 and will run through Dec. 15. 

Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598. 

Lauren Sausser is the Features Editor at The Post and Courier. She also covers health care issues in South Carolina.

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