- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2013

New Census Bureau figures show the number of Americans without health insurance dropped slightly in 2012 compared to the previous year, from 48.6 million to 48 million.

The percentage of people without coverage dropped from 15.7 percent to 15.4 percent, and the percentage of people covered by private insurance (63.9 percent) and by employer-based coverage (54.9 percent) also remained largely unchanged, the bureau said Tuesday.

Among those covered by government health insurance, the percentage enrolled in the Medicaid program for the poor held steady at 16.4 percent, but the percentage of those in the Medicare program for seniors and younger disabled persons rose from 15.2 percent in 2011 to 15.7 percent in 2012.

The figures shed light on the state of health care in America while debate rages over President Obama’s health care law on the cusp of its full implementation.

Republican critics of the Affordable Care Act want to defund or delay the law as part of upcoming fiscal fights in Washington —before the law takes root — but Democrats and the White House say the law is not on the negotiating table.

Government auditors have projected that 7 million people will seek health insurance in 2014 by enrolling in state-based health exchanges, where those without employer-based coverage can buy coverage, often with the help of income-based government subsidies.

Open enrollment on the exchanges will begin Oct. 1 and last until March 31.

Half the states have opted to expand Medicaid enrollment next year under Obamacare. The law extends the entitlement to those making up to 138 percent of the federal property level, and the government will pay for 100 percent of the expanded population in the years 2014 to 2016 before scaling down its contribution to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.

The Census Bureau noted that since 2009, Medicaid has covered more people than Medicare, coming in at 50.9 million compared to 48.9 million in 2012.

Additionally, the percentage of children younger than 18 who did not have health coverage dropped from 9.4 percent in 2011 to 8.9 percent in 2012.