Uninsured Rate Drops to 15%

July 13, 2014
Adam Hochron

Reports from 2 organizations found the benefits of the Affordable Care Act are being seen by the patients who needed the help most.

One of the main goals for the adoption of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was to provide the millions of American without the benefits of health insurance with the coverage they needed. According to 2 recent studies the controversial legislation has accomplished that goal many times over.

The Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS) put the estimate of people to sign up for new insurance through the ACA at close to 8 million through the first open enrollment period, which closed on March 31, 2014. The uninsured rate for adults between the ages of 18 and 64 was 13.9%, which represented a drop of 4 percentage points since September 2013, the month before enrollment began.

“Though estimates of the size of the net gain in coverage vary across surveys, there is consistent evidence of ongoing gains in insurance coverage,” the report states.

Study authors reported that states where the Medicaid expansion was implemented saw larger declines in their uninsured rates. That included a drop of 6.1 percentage points for non-elderly adults as opposed to a 1.7% drop in the non-expansion states. In June of 2014 the uninsured rate in the 25 non-expansion states was 18.3%, which was well above the 10.1% rate in the expansion states.

The Commonwealth Fund also looked at the impact of the first enrollments through the ACA and estimated a 5% uninsured rate drop, particularly among young adults, the country’s Latino population, and low-income residents.

According to its numbers, there were 9.5 million fewer uninsured people in the country thanks to the ACA. That included a drop from 20% uninsured between July and September of 2013 to 15% between April and June of 2014.

“Most people with new coverage, either a marketplace or Medicaid, said they were optimistic that it would improve their ability to get health care,” the report stated. “A majority of those who had used their new plan to get care or fill a prescription said they would not have been able to do so before.”

Commonwealth’s research also showed the biggest enrollment impact in adults between the ages of 19 and 34 where the uninsured rate dropped from 28% to 18% and Latinos, which saw a similarly dramatic dip from 36% to 23%. Also showing improvement in the number of people insured were low-income adults. Previously, 35% had been uninsured, which has dropped to 24%.

Looking at individual states, Commonwealth reported that in California the uninsured rate for working-age adults dropped from 22% to 11% by early June of 2014. Texas, which, unlike California, opted to not expand Medicaid, saw a less dramatic drop where the uninsured rate for adults at all income levels fell from 34% to 22%. Florida, another state that opted to not expand their Medicaid saw a small dip from 30% to 26%.

“The uninsured rates in Florida and Texas are statistically the same with both states continuing to leave uninsured the largest share of their adult population of the six largest states,” the authors wrote.

The data was based on interviewing 4,425 “working-age adults,” around the country “about their health insurance status, awareness of the marketplaces, and enrollment in both private plans and Medicaid.” They were also asked to give their opinions and experiences of their new coverage.

“Health Insurance coverage is the critical first step to getting people in the door for needed care,” said Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal, MD. “It is clear the Affordable Care Act is already helping improve the lives of millions of Americans. Now we have to make sure that our health care system is working smartly and delivering the best care in the most efficient way possible.”

For people who have already signed up for plans 60% reported having already been to a doctor or hospital or filling a prescription by the beginning of June. The report stated that 62% of that group claimed they would not have been able to afford the same health care options without the help of the ACA.

A large majority (81%) said they felt “optimistic” they would see improvements in their healthcare situation and get the help they needed while 58% said they were “better off now than before they had coverage.”

Lead survey researcher and Commonwealth Vice President for Health Care Coverage and Access Sara Collins said the numbers show the beginnings of success for the still growing program.

“This is the first survey to look at both coverage trends as well as people’s experiences using their new insurance,” she said. “The findings suggest that the Affordable Care Act is beginning to achieve its central goal-reducing number of Americans who are uninsured and improve access to health care.”

Collins added that while it is still early, in many ways the new programs offered are already starting to pay dividends in many ways.

“Adults who are being helped the most are those who historically have had the greatest difficulty affording health insurance and getting the care they need,” she said.