- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The percentage of people without health coverage dropped by nearly 3 percentage points from 2013 to 2014, according to Census figures released Wednesday that reflect the early impact of Obamacare.

Census figures show 10.4 percent of American were uninsured for the 2014 calendar year, down from 13.3 percent in the prior year, or a drop from 41.8 million people to 33 million.

The figures, outlined in the latest edition of the Current Population Survey, marked the greatest percentage-point decline since 2008.

The uninsured rate had been relatively stable from 2008 to 2013, before the Affordable Care Act was fully implemented.

Yet in the fall of 2013, qualified Americans could begin purchasing health coverage on web-based exchanges set up under Obamacare, often with the help of government subsidies. Also, select states started in January 2014 to expand their Medicaid coverage to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

“Over time, changes in the rate of health insurance coverage and the distribution of coverage types may reflect economic trends, shifts in the demographic composition of the population, and policy changes that impact access to health care,” the Census said. “Several such policy changes occurred in 2014, when many provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went into effect.”

Underscoring that point, the Census said the greatest increases in coverage rates were among people who purchased insurance on their own — that’s what exchange customers do — and to Medicaid.

The rate among people purchasing insurance directly increased by 3.2 percentage points from 2013 to 2014 to cover 14.6 percent of people overall. Medicaid coverage saw an uptick of 2 percentage points and now covers nearly one in five Americans.

The report says every state, plus D.C., saw a lower uninsured rate in 2014 compared to 2013, with decreases ranging from 0.4 percentage points to 5.8 points.

Texas faced the highest uninsured rate in the nation, at 19.1 percent, while Massachusetts enjoyed the lowest rate, at 3.3 percent, during 2014. Nearly a decade ago, Massachusetts passed state health reforms that served as a template for some of Obamacare’s changes on the national level.

The Census said insurance gains from 2013 to 2014 spanned all race and ethnic groups, although disparities remain.

Non-Hispanic whites were the most likely to be insured, at about 92 percent, with blacks (88.2 percent) and Asians (90.7 percent) slightly behind, while only eight out of every 10 Hispanics held coverage.

Overall, more than half of Americans — 55.4 percent — held insurance through a job, followed by Medicaid coverage (19.5 percent), the Medicare program for seniors and the disabled (16 percent), directly purchased insurance (14.6 percent) and military-based coverage (4.5 percent).

Obamacare’s champions have frequently touted declining uninsured rates as proof the law is working and should be preserved in Congress.

Its GOP foes, however, say enrollees face such high out-of-pocket costs that they’re “functionally uninsured,” and that mandates forced Americans to acquire insurance, so progress in the uninsured rate does not reflect a beloved law.

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