The percentage of Americans aged 18–64 covered by private health insurance in 2015 was roughly the same as in 2006, according to early estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Health Interview Survey.
About 70 percent of non-middle-aged American adults were covered by private health insurance in 2015—the fourth full year after President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law—as in 2006, four years before the law, a graph on page 1 of the survey shows.
Privately Insured Move to Welfare
John Graham, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), says the survey’s results show the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has done little to expand private coverage.
“Obamacare has not achieved a breakthrough in coverage,” Graham wrote at NCPA’s Health Policy Blog on June 9. “It has just restored us to where we were less than a decade ago.”
The survey indicates ACA has merely shifted privately insured people onto government assistance.
“It has imposed a lot of churn,” Graham told Health Care News.
Churn refers to people shifting between Medicaid and private insurance within a short period as their eligibility changes due to slight fluctuations in income.
ACA’s Achievement: Medicaid Expansion
Brian Blase, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, says Medicaid expansion is the primary reason for any increase in individual health care coverage under ACA.
“Medicaid expansion explains the vast majority of the net gains in health insurance over the past two years,” Blase said. “In addition to expanding Medicaid, Obamacare has resulted in chaos in the individual market for insurance: significantly increasing premiums, reducing choices available, and encouraging people to wait until sick to purchase coverage.”
Invited to Game the System
Graham says costly premiums encourage healthy people to delay buying Obamacare coverage until they absolutely need it.
“In the old days, if you did not have continuous coverage in most states, when you applied for coverage after a lapse, the insurer could underwrite you,” Graham said. “If you got sick before buying insurance, that [illness] would be excluded from coverage or your premium would not be affordable. You could carry this burden for life. These days, you are more likely to take a risk because you can enroll at the next open enrollment, and Obamacare premiums are too high for working people to pay if they are healthy.”
Increase in Short-Term Uninsured
The number of people uninsured for a year or more decreased between 2013 and 2015, while the number uninsured for less than a year increased slightly, the CDC survey reported.
Graham says this phenomenon is the result of Obamacare proponents’ poor planning.
“People are falling through the cracks because Obamacare has created one more crack for them to fall through,” Graham said.
The law has failed to meet even its proponents’ low standards, Blase says.
“By most measures, Obamacare is performing worse than expected when it was signed into law,” Blase said.
Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Robin A. Cohen, Michael E. Martinez, and Emily P. Zammitti, “Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, 2015,” Division of Health Interview Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 2016: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/health-insurance-coverage-early-release-of-estimates-from-the-national-health-interview-survey-2015
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