Study: U.S. uninsured rate drops below 10 percent


by Liv Osby

Source: Greenville Online

The number of uninsured Americans fell below 10 percent during the first quarter of this year, new data show.

That’s the lowest rate of uninsured people ever recorded in the survey, according to Rachel Garfield, senior researcher with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on national health issues.

“We now have the lowest uninsured rate that we’ve had in many decades,” Garfield said. “The data I’ve looked at goes back to the early 1970s and it’s the lowest we’ve seen since then.”

Some 29 million people - or 9.2 percent of the population - were uninsured during the first three months of 2015 compared with 11.5 percent in 2014, according to new estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics.

That translates into 7 million fewer uninsured people than in 2014, the agency said.

Garfield attributed the increase in coverage to the Affordable Care Act and an improving economy that is helping some to gain coverage through employment.

Ron Pollock, executive director of the nonpartisan Families USA, a nonprofit that advocates high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans, said the report shows that great progress is being made in expanding coverage.

“Approximately one out of three people who were uninsured before the Affordable Care Act started to get implemented now have health coverage,” he said.

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, nearly nine in 10 Americans had no health insurance in 1940.

By 1960, the rate had dropped to 25 percent with the advent of private health insurance. That number was further reduced with the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid, the NCPA reports.

In 2010, at the height of the lingering recession, the uninsured population had climbed to 22.3 percent, according to the NCHS.

Statewide, 16.6 percent of residents were uninsured in 2014, the most current state figures available, according to the U.S. Census.

Greenville County’s uninsured rate was 16.5 percent while Pickens County’s was 13.6 percent.

The South has higher uninsured rates overall, according to the NCHS.

Garfield attributed that to the lack of Medicaid expansion in some states.

Under the ACA, states have the option of expanding their Medicaid programs to impoverished adults. South Carolina is among the states that did not expand.

“It (the rate of uninsured people) still decreased in states that did not expand Medicaid,” she said. “But a state that has more coverage options had more gains in coverage.”

In Medicaid expansion states, the number of uninsured dropped from 18.4 percent in 2013 to 10.6 percent this year, according to the NCHS. In states that didn’t expand Medicaid, the rate fell from 22.7 percent to 16.8 percent during that time.

“The states from Texas through Virginia, including South Carolina, none have expanded the Medicaid program,” said Pollock. “We will see a huge improvement in coverage in any of these states once they decide to expand Medicaid.”

If that happens, the disparity in coverage between whites and a people of color, and among low-income groups, will change as well, he said.

The poor and near-poor were most likely to be uninsured, as were Hispanics, 28.3 percent of whom had no insurance during the first quarter of this year, the NCHS reported.

Blacks were uninsured at twice the rate of whites - 15.6 percent compared with 7.2 percent respectively. The rate for Asians was 8.7 percent.

Overall, the uninsured rate among people 18 to 64 fell from 16.3 percent to 13 percent, according to the NCHS report. The number of children who were uninsured dropped from 5.5 percent to 4.6 percent.






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