Hogan's Alley

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Truth About Health Insurance Coverage Since Passage of Obamacare

In recent days the Administration and much of the press have trumpeted the rising percentage of young people, below 26 years old, who now have health insurance coverage.  Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services press release asserts:

The Affordable Care Act allows children to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.  This policy took effect for insurance plan renewals beginning on September 23, 2010, and was designed to address the fact that young adults are the age group least likely to have health insurance.  This is one of the important early provisions in the Affordable Care Act designed to expand insurance coverage to uninsured Americans.
New results released today by the National Center for Health Statistics show that this policy has had a significant impact on improving insurance coverage among young adults. Data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) show that in the first quarter of 2011, the percentage of adults between the ages of 19 and 25 with health insurance increased to 69.6%, from 66.1% in 2010.[1]  This 3.5 percentage-point increase represents approximately one million additional young adults with insurance.

That is true as far as it goes.  However, the same press release provides additional data from the survey that shows that during the same period, health coverage for people ages 26 - 64 has shrunken dramatically.  Here is the chart they provide:

The trends lines are moving together.  The added health support of young people under 26 is likely to have maxed out since most parents were advised of the changes in the law and took advantage of it in the first year.  The only ongoing variable is likely to be the changing number of this age cohort in the population.

In fact, as reported by Gallup itself, although not mentioned in the HHS press release:

The percentage of uninsured 26- to 64-year-olds, however, continues to increase, rising to a high of 19.9% in the second quarter of this year. Among all Americans, 17.4% reported being uninsured in the second quarter of the year.

Another chart accompanying their report shows this drop in the numbers of people reporting that they have health insurance.

So, what we have is a reality in which the much ballyhooed 40 million Americans without health insurance before Obamacare has now become some number north of 40 million.  The net effect of Obamacare to date is therefore to have, arguably, only slowed the continuing shrinkage in the number of Americans with no health insurance.  Not yet worth celebrating.  And given the legal challenges to the mandatory coverage provisions of the law, the future doesn't bode well for improvement in these numbers.

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