What has 2 thumbs and is below 10%? The uninsured rate

uninsuredMore than 90% of Americans are insured for the first time in the five decades that the CDC and the Census Bureau have been conducting the National Health Survey. In other words, fewer than 10% of Americans do not have health insurance for the first time in 50 years. Any way you slice it, the Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare – and its Medicaid expansion is the major driver behind this historic turn of events. When Americans thought they had the answers, the CDC changed the questions (perhaps doing homage to the late, great Rowdy Roddy Piper) – but the results were pretty much the same until now: always more than 10% and at times as many as 18% of respondents were uninsured.

The latest numbers are only an early release, because it covers only the months between January and March of 2015. However, all signs point to the fact that the uninsured rate will continue to drop as the same time as healthcare marketplace and Medicaid enrollment continues to increase – if last year’s partial and full data are any indication, that is. The CDC’s 2014’s early release report spanning the same period of time showed that 13.1% of Americans were not insured. By the end of the year, that rate had fallen to 11.5%. And in case you are not quite convinced Medicaid expansion has played a substantial role in the uninsured rate, the survey makes it a point to compare expansion and non-expansion states.

National Health Interview Survey Early Release Program Highlights

  • 29 million persons of all ages (9.2%) were not insured at the time of interview in the first 3 months of 2015 – 7 million fewer than in 2014.
  • The uninsured rate among adults aged 18-64 dropped from 16.3% in 2014 to 13% in the first 3 months of 2015.
  • The percentage of children under 18 years of age with private coverage went up from 52.6% in 2013 to 56.3% in the first 3 months of 2015.
  • The percentage of people under age 65 with private coverage through the health insurance marketplace or state-based exchanges increased from 2.5%  in the last 3 months of 2014 to 3.6% in the first 3 months of 2015.

In non-expansion states 17% of residents under 65 years of age are uninsured, down from 23% in 2013. In states that have expanded Medicaid the decline has been from 18.5% in 2013 to 10.5% in 2015 so far. Of course it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. The under 10% number takes into account Medicare beneficiaries. The uninsured rate among Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 is 13%. Moreover, the link between poverty and lack of insurance remains strong. Approximately 28% of poor Americans and 24% of near-poor Americans were uninsured, as compared to 7.5% of Americans who were not poor.

All things considered, however, Obamacare insurance coverage is not perfect yet but it certainly is an improvement over not having insurance, including better access to doctors and less difficulty paying for medical bills – even if out-of-pocket costs are still the order of the day, and no one knows who is going to foot the overall healthcare bill. What’s more, having insurance could actually and literally save your life, according to this Advisory Board Company blog.

Related Read:

- Medicaid vs. Benefits for public employees and retirees