Break­ing down unin­sured data

But re­form crit­ics cite bad econ­omy as source

Modern Healthcare - - FRONT PAGE - Me­lanie Evans

The U.S. Cen­sus Bureau de­liv­ered num­bers sug­gest­ing the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act has started to win­now the coun­try’s ranks of unin­sured as the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates pin their prospects in part on whether Amer­i­cans want the law to stay or go.

Pro­vi­sions of the re­form law that ex­tend de­pen­dent cov­er­age for young adults and pre­vent states from slash­ing Med­i­caid el­i­gi­bil­ity likely con­trib­uted to the drop in unin­sured among those ages 19 to 25, steady pri­vate in­sur­ance en­roll­ment and Med­i­caid en­roll­ment growth cap­tured by the Cen­sus Bureau fig­ures, health pol­icy an­a­lysts said. Some states also ex­panded Med­i­caid cov­er­age, as al­lowed un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Last week, pro­po­nents of the law moved quickly to tout the fig­ures, while its crit­ics de­scribed the num­bers as more likely a prod­uct of eco­nomic weak­ness than suc­cess­ful health­care re­form.

“Now we must continue to im­ple­ment this law to pro­tect mid­dle-class fam­i­lies and those per­sons try­ing to find sta­ble em­ploy­ment and health in­sur­ance,” Sis­ter Carol Kee­han, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Catholic Health As­so­ci­a­tion and a high-pro­file ad­vo­cate of the law, said in a state­ment. She urged gov­er­nors to ex­pand Med­i­caid el­i­gi­bil­ity. “The need for a strong, sus­tain­able safety net is as real and im­por­tant as ever,” she said.

The Cen­sus Bureau said 260.2 mil­lion peo­ple were in­sured last year, up from 256.6 mil­lion in 2010.

The num­ber of unin­sured last year dropped to 48.6 mil­lion from 50 mil­lion the year be­fore, to 15.7% from 16.3% of the pop­u­la­tion, the largest de­cline since the Cen­sus ad­justed its method­ol­ogy in 1999. The Cen­sus Bureau re­ported a drop, to 27.7% from 29.8%, in the num­ber of unin­sured among those ages 19 to 25. Un­der an Af­ford­able Care Act pro­vi­sion that went into ef­fect in Septem­ber 2010, young adults are el­i­gi­ble to keep in­sur­ance cov­er­age through a par­ent un­til they turn 26.

“This would seem to be a turn­ing point,”

TURN­ING A COR­NER

The stub­bornly ris­ing ranks of unin­sured in the U.S. fell by more than 1.3 mil­lion in 2011, the Cen­sus Bureau found, but

ob­servers dis­agree whether it’s a long-term trend

Source: “In­come, Poverty, and Health In­sur­ance Cov­er­age in the United States: 2011,” U.S. Cen­sus Bureau

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