The ranks of the uninsured are shrinking, and it’s thanks to Obamacare and Medicaid

September 12, 2012

About 1.4 million more Americans have health insurance than did one year ago, according to new data out Wednesday morning from the United States Census Bureau.

That reverses a three-year trend of rising uninsured rates, with the number growing from 16.3 percent in 2010 to 15.7 percent in 2011. That means there are 48.6 million Americans without coverage, down from 50 million in 2010.

Census data also shows 2011 to be the first year in a decade where the rate of private insurance did not fall.

"Our main finding is coverage increased between 2010 and 2011," David Johnson, chief of the Census's Chief, Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division, told reporters on a Wednesday call.

The uninsurance rate rose steadily during the recession, from 14.9 percent in 2008 up to 16.3 percent last year. This year, however, it took a slight dip:

There are two factors that Census officials say have driven down the uninsured rate. The first has to do with the Affordable Care Act's extension of dependent coverage up to age 26. About 3 million young adults are estimated to have taken advantage of that provision.

The Census Bureau estimates that about 40 percent of the drop in young adults' uninsured rate is due those individuals remaining as dependents on private insurance plans.

 

The other driver has to do with a growth of Americans using public insurance programs, like Medicaid. When you break down the insurance numbers by income, you see that the biggest gains have been made among the lowest-income Americans, most likely to be eligible for those programs.

"A lot of the fall in the uninsured rate, and increase in coverage, is due to the 19- to 25-year-old age group," Johnson said. "We find a large increase in public coverage. Those two things are driving the uninsured rate to fall."

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Suzy Khimm · September 12, 2012