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Report: Uninsured rate will fall 45 percent in RI

Erika Niedowski, Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The number of uninsured in Rhode Island will drop to about 68,000 from 124,000 after the federal health care overhaul is fully implemented, a new report estimates.

The report, released by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation last week, predicts a 45 percent decline in the number of those without health coverage in Rhode Island after the Affordable Care Act goes into full effect. That would leave about 6.5 percent uninsured of the state's roughly 1 million residents, down from about 12 percent currently.

Residents and small businesses will be able to shop for and enroll in health insurance through a new online marketplace, HealthSource RI, beginning Oct. 1. Most Americans will be required to have coverage as of Jan. 1, or pay a penalty. Many will qualify for federal subsidies.

The report said the uninsured rate nationally is expected to decline by 47 percent but that an estimated 26 million people will remain uncovered.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a conservative public policy think tank, said in a separate report this week that the number of uninsured in the state may remain as high as 97,000. Its low estimate for the uninsured was 71,000.

That and other reports have predicted that those who will remain uninsured under the Affordable Care Act include generally healthy young people who will opt to pay the penalty rather than purchase insurance; self-employed people who can wait to buy coverage until they need it; those who are eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled; those living in the U.S. illegally; and those exempt from the individual mandate.

HealthSource RI is doing a community outreach campaign to encourage the uninsured to enroll, including through an expansion of Medicaid. Community health centers across the state have been awarded some $941,000 in federal funds for outreach and enrollment efforts. The participating sites treated 135,000 patients last year, nearly one-third of them uninsured.

HealthSource RI Director Christine Ferguson has said the success of the health care overhaul won't be based just on the number of people who are covered but on whether the plans offer good, affordable coverage.