A 35 percent decline in the uninsured rate is the largest drop in four decades, with African Americans and Latinos experiencing the greatest decreases, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services announced today.
“Since the Affordable Care Act about 16.4 million people have gained health insurance,” including 2.3 million African-Americans, Meena Seshamani, M.D., director of the HHS Office of Health Reform, said during a briefing to mark the fifth anniversary of the ACA.
The uninsured rate dropped a third since open enrollment began in October 2013, from 20.3 percent to 13.2 percent — the biggest change since the debut of Medicare and Medicaid, according to the new report. The rate went down 9.2 percent for African Americans, compared to 12.3 percent for Latinos (the largest uninsured group) and 5.3 percent for whites.
“This is a historic drop,” added Richard G. Frank, assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS. “That’s good for people and their health, and it’s good for the economy.”
About 5.7 million young adults, ages 19 to 25, gained insurance coverage between 2010 and March 4, 2015.
“Because of the Affordable Care Act, young adults are able to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, states can expand their Medicaid programs and tax credits are available to millions of Americans in all 50 states, making health care coverage more affordable and accessible,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement.
However, challenges to the ACA threaten to erode these gains. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in King vs. Burwell, a dispute over ACA language on tax credits related to insurance purchased through state and federal exchanges. The Court is expected to decide on the case in late June. (See, “Affordable Care Act Returns to Supreme Court.”)
“We know that the Affordable Care Act is working,” Dr. Seshamani said, noting that people “no longer need to put off care or go broke.”
“Today’s news is good for the health of millions of Americans,” she added. “These numbers represent people whose lives have been changed for the better.”
Yanick Rice Lamb, who teaches journalism at Howard University, is co-founder of FierceforBlackWomen.com.