Uninsured Rate Increased in First Months of 2017

Efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act may have caused the uninsured rate to rise from 2016 to 2017, a new study finds.

A new study conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index discovered a slight increase in the uninsured rate in 2017. In the last 2 quarters of 2016, the uninsured rate was 10.9%, but it rose to 11.3% in the first quarter of 2017.

This increase is likely due to the uncertainty of the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including a provision that requires individuals to have insurance, according to the study.

Although the rate has increased, the number of uninsured Americans is still 6.7% less than in the third quarter of 2013, when it hit a peak of 18%, according to the study. This rate was counteracted by the ACA when it was enacted 1 year later.

These new findings are based on interviews with 44,596 Americans aged 18 and older.

The authors found that young adults aged 18 to 25 have made the most significant gains in insurance since the ACA was enacted, with more than a 17% decline in the uninsured rate, according to the study.

This may be linked to the provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26. These findings are significant because insuring this population can offset the healthcare costs of older adults, who tend to use more costly services.

Adults aged 26 to 34 have also seen a 10% drop in the uninsured rate, according to the study.

The authors found that Hispanics and lower-income adults made substantial gains in insurance. While Hispanics remain the racial/ethnic group with the highest uninsured rate, the rate for this population decreased 10.1% since the last quarter of 2013.

Comparatively, non-Hispanic black and white adults have only seen a drop of 8% and 5%, respectively, according to the study. The uninsured rate of low-income adults decreased 9%, while the uninsured rate of middle-income and high-income adults was reduced by 3.2% and 2.4%, respectively.

The authors found that the number of individuals fully paying for their health insurance, without employer contributions, increased from 17.6% in the last quarter of 2013 to 20.7% in the first quarter of 2017. This was the largest increase in health insurance plan type.

Medicaid was observed to have the second greatest increase compared with other insurance sources, experiencing a 2% gain from 2013 to 2017, according to the study. This gain was likely the result of many states choosing to expand their Medicaid programs under the ACA to provide this population with insurance.

Due to efforts being made to repeal and replace the ACA by GOP lawmakers, it is likely that many individuals chose not to enroll in coverage over concerns of the long-term stability of the ACA, which explains why the uninsured rate increased, according to the authors.

Additional efforts will be needed to monitor the uninsured rate over the coming months, as lawmakers revise the American Health Care Act and insurers draft plans for 2018, the study concluded.