Subsidies made available to millions of people who couldn't afford health coverage under the Affordable Care Act directly led to the massive decrease in the uninsured rate last year, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The uninsured rate dropped to 12.9 percent at the end of 2014, down from 17 percent in 2013, while 16.4 million Americans have signed up for a health plan since the ACA was implemented, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.
Analyzing several studies on the uninsured rate and interviewing federal agency experts, the GAO determined that premium tax credits lowered healthcare costs for millions of people and "likely contributed to an expansion of health insurance coverage because it significantly reduced the cost of premiums for those eligible."
In fact, almost 90 percent of consumers who obtained coverage through the health insurance exchanges qualify for subsidies, allowing them to lower their monthly premiums an average of $82 per month.
But the GAO warned against using its report to predict future uninsured rates. "It is important to note that these findings about the first year of the exchanges cannot be generalized to future years," the agency said.
The report comes just a few months before the Supreme Court will issue its decision in the King v. Burwell case about whether subsidies are legal. The GAO's conclusions underscore the importance of subsidies and support the Obama administration's claim that tax credits are an essential component of the ACA, The Hill reported.