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ACA pushes uninsured rate to new lows
"Obamacare" is succeeding in its most fundamental goal: it's bringing coverage and health security to Americans who were uninsured.
By Steve Benen
The uninsured rate among U.S. adults declined to 11.9% for the first quarter of 2015 -- down one percentage point from the previous quarter and 5.2 points since the end of 2013, just before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. The uninsured rate is the lowest since Gallup and Healthways began tracking it in 2008. The percentage of uninsured Americans climbed from the 14% range in early 2008 to over 17% in 2011, and peaked at 18.0% in the third quarter of 2013. The uninsured rate has dropped sharply since the most significant change to the U.S. healthcare system in the Affordable Care Act -- the provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance -- took effect at the beginning of 2014.
A variety of prominent conservative voices, as recently as last year, argued that the ACA would fall short on this basic goal. Avik Roy, for example, argued, "At the end of the day, for all of the rhetoric and promises about what Obamacare would achieve, the health law's most ardent supporters have stuck to their guns because of one thing: coverage expansion. But new data suggests that Obamacare may fail even to achieve this goal."
As it turns out, like so much of the conservative rhetoric surrounding the Affordable Care Act, the dire assessments turned out to be wrong. The law intended to expand coverage and reduced the uninsured rate, and the latest data suggests this one of many areas in which the ACA is succeeding in its principal goals.
What's more, it's worth emphasizing that the new results would be even better if more "red" states would do the right thing on Medicaid expansion, but on this front, progress is clearly slow. Greg Sargent has more on this angle.
I'd just add that while all constituencies are benefiting nationwide, some are seeing even faster improvements than others. From the Gallup report:
While the uninsured rate has declined across all key demographic groups since the healthcare law fully took effect in January 2014, it has dropped most among lower-income Americans and Hispanics -- the groups most likely to lack insurance. The uninsured rate among Americans earning less than $36,000 in annual household income dropped 8.7 points since the end of 2013, while the rate among Hispanics fell 8.3 points.
That's evidence of very rapid progress, but it's also a warning sign of sorts -- many of these households in particular are benefiting from ACA subsidies. If Republican justices on the high court take a sledgehammer to the law, it's these families who could least afford the hit who would be hurt the most.