New cen­sus data ex­pected to high­light drop in unin­sured

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHEAD - —Bob Her­man

The U.S. Cen­sus Bureau will re­lease its an­nual health in­sur­ance re­port this week, and it likely will mir­ror other stud­ies and sur­veys that show that the num­ber of unin­sured Amer­i­cans con­tin­ues to drop.

The re­port will in­di­cate how many peo­ple went with­out health cov­er­age for 2014.

In 2013, 13.4% of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion, or 42 mil­lion peo­ple, had no health in­sur­ance, ac­cord­ing to last year’s Cen­sus Bureau as­sess­ment. For the 271.4 mil­lion peo­ple who did have in­sur­ance, about two-thirds had pri­vate cov­er­age through an em­ployer or the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket.

This week’s re­port will in­clude the first full year of data from the Af­ford­able Care Act’s ex­changes, which have ex­panded healthcare cov­er­age to about 10 mil­lion peo­ple. Mil­lions more have gained in­sur­ance through the ex­pan­sion of Med­i­caid.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion’s Na­tional Health In­ter­view Sur­vey from June showed the num­ber of unin­sured in 2014 to­taled 36 mil­lion peo­ple, or 11.5% of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion. A Gallup-Health­ways sur­vey from April pegged the unin­sured rate at 11.9% for the first quar­ter of 2015.

How­ever, un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants are still not el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive pre­mium sub­si­dies, pre­vent­ing them from buy­ing cov­er­age on the ex­changes and leav­ing many unin­sured. And while health plans now of­fer first-dol­lar cov­er­age for many pre­ven­tive screen­ings, more con­sumers are be­ing di­rected to­ward high-de­ductible plans and nar­row net­works that re­quire more out-of-pocket spend­ing. Many ex­perts have said this sim­ply turns the unin­sured into the un­der­in­sured.

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