Some of these are folks that had previously had insurance, and were simply exchanging one plan for another. But a recent study from the Urban Institute Health Policy Center shows that the number of uninsured adults in the US decreased by at least 5.4 million since enrollment began in October 2013. This represents a drop of 2.7 percentage points, or a relative decrease of 15%.
I say at least because the data come with 2 caveats. First, it does not reflect enrollments in the last couple of weeks of March, when activity surged. Second, it does not show the effect of other provisions that have been shown to increase coverage, especially the provision allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26 (that number is estimated to be about 3.1 million).
This is a huge improvement in America’s shameful status among developed countries in providing healthcare coverage for its citizens. The impact could have been even greater. The drop in uninsured was less than half as big in the 24 states that opted not to expand Medicaid compared with those that did, leaving millions more uninsured.
BUT – I’m not giving 3 cheers yet. The stated goals of the Affordable Care Act were to expand coverage (good start but more work to do), and to decrease costs (still more work to do). In a previous blog I talked about how the ACA has likely already had a positive impact on healthcare spending. However, now that there are millions more Americans with coverage, demand may start to increase, potentially reversing some of those gains.
Nevertheless, while the jury is still out, I think 8.5 million Americans with insurance coverage they didn’t used to have is something to celebrate. I’m sure those people are celebrating.