a new paper shows one place where the law has been a clear success: narrowing the race gap in health insurance. So why aren’t more Democrats shouting that from the rooftops. In 2013, the year before most of the law’s provisions for subsidized insurance took effect, non-elderly blacks were 47 percent more likely than whites to be uninsured.
For American Indians, that figure was 93 percent; for Hispanics, 120 percent. In 2014, not only did the share of whites without insurance fall; the share of blacks and Asian Americans fell by more. The difference between whites and Hispanics shrank, from 14 percentage points to 11.8 percentage points. What’s odd about the race gap isn’t its persistence, but that its narrowing isn’t more celebrated as one of the law’s accomplishments. Narrowing the race gap in health insurance counts unequivocally as progress.
More young women are getting screened and diagnosed with early-stage cervical cancer, potentially because Obamacare allows them to access insurance benefits through their parents’ plans, according to a new study from American Cancer Society researchers. The researchers examined a large database that tracks cancer cases in the United States. They compared the cancer diagnoses among women between the ages of 21 to 25 to the diagnoses among women between the ages of 26 to 34 — both before and after the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion took effect. An Obamacare provision that allows young adults to remain insured through their parents’ plans until the age of 26 appears to have affected the rates of cervical cancer diagnosis among that demographic.
After the ACA, the diagnosis rates significantly rose for the women in their early twenties and remained fairly constant for older women. “It’s a very remarkable finding, actually,” researcher Dr. Ahmedin Jemal told the New York Times. “You see the effect of the ACA on the cancer outcomes.” It’s better to receive an early cancer diagnosis because the disease is easier to treat in its early stages and patients are more likely to survive. Even though it might not sound like a good thing that cervical cancer cases are on the rise, it’s actually reflective of the fact that more people are using their health insurance to get screened. Previous research has found that people with insurance are more likely to take advantage of preventative health services like screenings that can detect cancer as soon as possible.
The percentage of women of reproductive age who were uninsured dropped sharply between 2013 and 2014, the first full year of implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The decrease among women aged 15–44, calculated by the Guttmacher Institute, mirrors broader national trends reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. This includes steeper drops in the uninsured rate in states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA compared with the rates in those states that did not. The proportion of reproductive-age women without health insurance declined by more than one-fifth between 2013 and 2014, from 17.9% to 13.9%. The change appears to have been driven primarily by gains in Medicaid coverage (from 17.2% to 20.2%). There was a small increase in the proportion of women with private health insurance, from 60.9% to 62.1%.
Gains in insurance coverage among reproductive-age women who live below the poverty line were substantial as well. The uninsured rate dropped by one-fifth, from 32.1% in 2013 to 25.6% in 2014. The gains in the proportion of women aged 15–44 who have insurance coverage has significant implications for access to health care in general, and to sexual and reproductive health care in particular. Medicaid has long offered a very robust package of sexual and reproductive health care services, including family planning services and supplies without out-of-pocket costs for enrollees. And the ACA has spurred significant improvements in private plans’ coverage; most notably, the contraceptive coverage guarantee ensures that privately insured women can access the full range of 18 Food and Drug Administration–approved contraceptive methods for women without out-of-pocket costs.
A total of 17.6 million people have gained coverage under ObamaCare, according to a revised government estimate. The newest figure, which is based on national survey data, shows that 1.2 million more people had signed up for healthcare over the last five years than previously thought. The revised total includes 15.3 million people who gained coverage through the individual marketplace or through Medicaid. It also includes 2.3 million young adults who gained coverage because they were able to remain on a parent’s plan until they turn 26.
The new data also puts the Obama administration ahead of the health insurance gains estimated by the Congressional Budget Office for 2015. The CBO had predicted roughly 17 million people would gain coverage by 2015. Health and Human Services (HHS) chief Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced the new figure Tuesday during a speech at Howard University Hospital, where she also highlighted the law’s impact on black and Hispanic populations. “This progress has been even bigger for people of color,” she said, pointing to the 10 percent drop in the uninsured rate among black Americans.
Dan Diamond: Thanks, Obamacare: America’s Uninsured Rate Is Below 10% For First Time Ever
For the first time in more than 50 years of surveys, the CDC on Wednesday reported that more than 90% of Americans — 90.8% of us, to be specific — have health insurance. Until now, no major survey had ever found that the uninsured rate in America has hit single digits. The data comes from the National Health Interview Survey, which the CDC and the Census Bureau have been conducting for more than 50 years.
Nearly 16 million fewer Americans were uninsured in early 2015 compared to 2013. And based on past precedent, there’s every expectation that the uninsured rate will continue to go down as enrollment in the ACA exchanges and Medicaid keeps going up. Having more insured customers is good for the health care industry, too. Hospitals are reporting huge jobs gains, and the health care sector is reporting its best 12-month stretch of new jobs in almost 25 years.
Stephen Feller: Study: Higher Number Of Americans Insured Because Of ObamaCare
A review of data on community health centers shows large increases in the number of people who have gained access to healthcare as a result of the Affordable Care Act, especially in underserved urban and rural areas of the United States. Researchers pin much of the credit to the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, also referred to as ObamaCare, which has allowed people who cannot afford health insurance to have greater access to care.
They note, though, that there has also been a large increase in the number people who have purchased private insurance through the ACA-mandated state exchanges. “Our findings underscore the importance of the Affordable Care Act to the poorest Americans,” said Dr. Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University, in a press release. “This report shows the importance of ensuring that the ACA’s resources reach all medically underserved communities, including those in the 20 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid.”
Obamacare is attracting younger and healthier people to its coverage plans this year, according to research by Express Scripts Holding Co., a trend that could help balance and sustain the law’s insurance markets. According to the report, which looked at people enrolled in drug coverage administered by Express Scripts, drug costs were 36 percent lower than in 2014.
People in the exchange plans were also younger by almost four years than those who signed up for 2014, Express Scripts said. Insurance markets depend on a mix of people paying premiums to subsidize the medical costs of others when they fall ill. To be sustainable over time, Obamacare will have to attract enough healthy people to keep coverage affordable.
Laura Bassett: White House Finds Way Around Hobby Lobby Birth Control Decision
The Obama administration on Friday issued its final rules for employers who morally object to covering birth control in their health insurance plans. The accommodation ensures that all employed women, unless they work for a place of worship, will still have their birth control covered at no cost to them, even if their employers refuse to cover it. Under the new rule, a closely held for-profit company that objects to covering contraception in its health plan can write a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services stating its objection.
HHS will then notify a third-party insurer of the company’s objection, and the insurer will provide birth control coverage to the company’s female employees at no additional cost to the company. “Women across the country should have access to preventive services, including contraception,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “At the same time, we recognize the deeply held views on these issues, and we are committed to securing women’s access to important preventive services at no additional cost under the Affordable Care Act, while respecting religious beliefs.”