NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Uninsured Rate Drops, but Medicaid Enrollment Climbs

January 16, 2015

A new Gallup poll shows the uninsured rate at 12.9 percent as of the fourth quarter of 2014, a fall from the 16.3 percent rate that America was experiencing prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

So does this mean that Obamacare is working? Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute says observers should be careful about how they define the term "working." Some of the drop in the uninsured rate, he says, is likely due to the rise in employment as the economy has improved since the recession. Even so, while Obamacare is partly responsible for the rising insured rate, Tanner says the quality of that insurance is questionable:

  • The majority (60 percent) of the newly insured are actually on Medicaid.
  • Medicaid is hardly equivalent to private insurance. It reimburses doctors at much lower rates than private insurance, so doctors limit the amount of Medicaid patients that they will take. This reduces Medicaid enrollees' access to care.
  • According to a Health Affairs study, just 69 percent of doctors accept Medicaid patients.
  • For Medicaid patients who are accepted, they typically have to wait 42 days to see a doctor -- twice the wait that a privately insured patient would have.

According to Tanner, while more Americans are enrolled in Medicare, physician reimbursements are falling. It's going to become increasingly difficult for those people to see a doctor, even if they are technically counted as "insured."

Source: Michael D. Tanner, "How Obamacare Is 'Working'," National Review, January 14, 2015. 


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