Medicaid, CHIP picked up health insurance slack during Great Recession

A Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) study of insurance enrollment from the beginning of the recession to the last days before the Affordable Care Act went into effect shows that Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) played a key role in providing coverage to low-income Americans who lost employer-sponsored insurance.

Looking at data from the American Community Survey, KFF noted that coverage through employer-sponsored health plans dipped every year from 2008 to 2013, in part because there were fewer Americans working in 2013 (138 million) than in 2008 (140.4 million). The percentage of Americans covered by employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) dropped from 61 percent in 2008 to 56.6 percent in 2013, KFF said. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said earlier this year that the figure is actually below 50 percent, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

While the overall uninsured rate increased from 2008 to 2010--the worst years of the recession--it actually declined each year from 2011 to 2013, when the economic recovery began, KFF found.

The gains came largely from state insurance programs--11.6 million American adults obtained healthcare coverage through Medicaid alone from 2008 to 2013, while 5.6 million children were covered through CHIP. Another 2.6 million adults ages 19 to 25 gained coverage from 2011 to 2013 through their parents' employer-sponsored plans, according to the report.

The KFF report conceded that employer-sponsored health plans will remain the largest source of insurance for Americans. It's also worth noting that the uninsured rate has dropped significantly since the main provisions of the ACA went into effect.

However, the gains in insurance coverage since 2008 have largely benefited low-income Americans; 86 percent of enrollees on and the state exchanges qualified for subsidized coverage in 2014. KFF thus concluded: "It is therefore important to continue to track trends in ESI coverage alongside coverage gains in Medicaid and private non-group health insurance under the ACA to fully understand the effects of the ACA on health insurance coverage."

For more:
- read the Kaiser Family Foundation report

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