Uninsured rate declines, but problems remain for low-income Americans

The percentage of uninsured adults decreased from 20 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in the second half of 2014, according to a new study from the Commonwealth Fund. Additionally on the decline is the number of Americans who reported difficulty trying to pay medical bills. 

Last year, a total of 6.4 million people bought health plans on the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces. Since the second enrollment period began Nov. 15, 2014, 6.8 million consumers reenrolled or purchased plans via the federal exchange. What's more, at least 950,000 people enrolled through the 14 state-run exchanges. Millions more qualified for expanded Medicaid under the ACA or were added to their parent's insurance plans.

The uninsured rate for all Ameicans dropped to 12.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. The rate was 13.4 percent in the third quarter of 2014 and 17.1 percent one year ago, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

For young adults ages 19 to 34, the uninsured rate fell from 27 percent to 23 percent in 2012. "This decline reflects an array of new coverage options for this group, some of which began in 2010: the ability to join a parent's policy, protections for enrollees in college health plans, and subsidized marketplace plans and expanded eligibility for Medicaid," the study concluded.

Further, the number of adults who did not seek care due to cost-related issues declined from 43 percent in 2012 to 36 percent in 2014, according to the study. The number of individuals who reported issues paying their medical bills also declined--75 million in 2012 to 64 million in 2014. This year was the first time the Commonwealth Fund found a decline regarding those paying medical bills since the question was added to the survey in 2003.

"Declines in medical bill problems nationwide are likely driven by expanded access to health insurance. As seen in prior years of the survey, uninsured adults are more likely to say they had difficulties paying medical bills or were paying off medical debt than adults with health insurance," noted the study.

Despite the drop in most areas, the study found problems with access and affordability for low-income Americans--one-third of low-income adults reported issues paying their medical bills, while those living in states that did not expand Medicaid noted issues of accessing care and paying for it.

For more:
- here's the study (.pdf)