As uninsured rate dips, so do ethnic coverage disparities

Amid news that the overall rate of uninsured Americans has declined, a study also highlights the progress the country has made in closing coverage gaps between minority groups and white adults.

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the uninsured rate was 10.4 percent in 2014, while the rate was 13.3 percent in 2013. That adds up to 33 million without coverage in 2014, down from 41.8 million the previous year.

Meanwhile, in a Health Affairs analysis of early released data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey, the authors find that by the fourth quarter of 2014, the uninsured rate among Hispanic adults--both citizens and noncitizens--was 31.8 percent, down from 40.1 percent in the third quarter of 2013.

Among black adults, the uninsured rate decreased from 25.5 percent to 17.2 percent during the same period, while the uninsured rate among white adults dropped from 14.8 percent to 10.5 percent.

These findings are somewhat consistent with previous statistics about the uninsured rate among minority populations. For example, data released in August by the National Center for Health Statistics found the uninsured rate for Hispanic adults had dropped from 40.6 percent in 2013 to 28.5 percent in 2014.

While their findings are encouraging, the Health Affairs study authors note that two major factors have stymied the Affordable Care Act's effort to close ethnic disparities in health insurance coverage: The refusal of some states to expand Medicaid and the fact that undocumented immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid or coverage through the ACA exchanges.

The latter "dramatically affects the ACA's potential to reduce uninsurance for Hispanics, an estimated 16 percent of whom are undocumented immigrants," they write.

In fact, a report this week indicated that more than 400,000 people have lost coverage this year because of citizenship issues, a dramatic increase from previous years due to a change in the timeframe to resolve documentation questions.

To learn more:
- here's the Census Bureau data
- check out the Health Affairs study

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