Obamacare may still face challenges at the federal level, but New Jersey just took a major step to bolster the Affordable Care Act at home.
The impact of the health care law, however, has been felt unevenly across the state.
On Thursday, lawmakers largely agreed to let New Jersey launch its own health insurance shopping site, starting next year. Previously, the state had directed residents to the federal government’s site.
The lack of a state-run exchange had made it harder to sign up for insurance, according to Lisa Lieberman, a professor of public health at Montclair State University. After President Donald Trump cut the enrollment period from three months to six weeks, fewer people in the state used the federal marketplace to sign up for healthcare, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“I think New Jersey is catching up now," Lieberman said, "but there’s always a few years of a lag.”
The number of uninsured people dropped significantly when the law took effect, but that drop has since slowed.
More than 7 percent of New Jersey’s population was uninsured in 2017, according to data from the U.S. Census, which adds up to more than 688,000 people. (That doesn’t count those in the military or in prison.)
Among those paying for health care on their own, several groups were over-represented.
Almost half of those without insurance were Hispanic or Latino. Far more than half did not go to college, and people working in construction, retail and the arts lacked coverage at higher rates than other industries.
Different counties also reported higher numbers: About a tenth of Essex didn’t have insurance, and more than a tenth lacked coverage in Hudson and Passaic.
The state as a whole did report better coverage than the nation overall.
After the law passed, former Gov. Chris Christie was one of the few Republican governors who expanded Medicaid, and his successor, Gov. Phil Murphy, signed a bill last year mandating that residents have insurance even after Congress essentially ended the national requirement.
Murphy’s administration has said that health care costs haven’t risen by more because of his decision.
When compared to other states, New Jersey was near the middle. Larger shares of people lacked insurance in twenty-six states, although some places were not included in the data.
In the chart below, click on a category to re-sort the list by state name, population or the share of uninsured. Click on the arrow in the upper right-hand corner to scroll through more places.