Breaking down uninsured data
But reform critics cite bad economy as source
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