HHS report points to coverage gains across demographics

Health insurance, pen and stethoscope

New government figures show that healthcare coverage gains tied to the Affordable Care Act have been “widely shared” across demographics, including age, race and income level.

The new report from the Department of Health and Human Services comes in the wake of increased scrutiny of the ACA driven by dwindling insurer participation and rising premiums on the public exchanges. For its part, the Obama administration has taken steps to address insurers’ concerns, such as lowering barriers to entry and exit exchange markets, while emphasizing the historic coverage gains spurred by the ACA.

HHS’ report offers greater detail about how these coverage gains have been dispersed over specific groups. Among a range of income levels, for example, reductions in uninsured rates were relatively consistent--hovering around 40 percent.

Medicaid expansion primarily drove the reduction in uninsured rates among lower-income Americans, the report notes. Meanwhile, middle- and moderate-income individuals accrued the most benefits of ACA provisions such as financial assistance, allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health plan and the ban of coverage denials based on pre-existing conditions.

Across different age groups, 18- to 25-year-olds saw the greatest reduction in uninsured rates, at 52 percent, with the other groups averaging approximately 38 percent. In terms of geography, individuals in urban areas experienced a 3 percent greater reduction in uninsured rates than those in rural areas, whose uninsured rates dropped 42 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

Coverage gains varied more among different racial and ethnic groups, with Asians experiencing the greatest reduction in uninsured rates (59 percent) and Hispanics experiencing the smallest (35 percent). Hispanic populations have been one of the more challenging demographics to get covered, which is underscored by the fact that undocumented immigrants cannot access the public exchanges.

The report also highlights coverage increase differences between states that expanded Medicaid and those that did not; in the former, the overall uninsured rate decreased nearly 50 percent, while in the latter, rates declined almost 32 percent.

Overall, the report shows that “regardless of your income, age, geography, or race, everyone is gaining access to coverage or better coverage under the Affordable Care Act,” Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said an announcement.