Blacks, Latinos make health care gains
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson applauds gains in health care coverage by African-Americans and Latinos. (Courtesy photo)
By Stacy M. Brown, From The Washington Informer
Recent health care reports show declines in the uninsured rates for both African-Americans and other minorities nationally, while highlighting that Washington continues to be among cities where Blacks and Latinos have benefited greatly from the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Among ethnic groups, Latinos and African Americans saw the biggest declines in uninsured rates, with drops of 8.3 percent and 7.3 percent respectively since late 2013, according to a report released on April 14 by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
In an earlier, separate study released by DC Health Link, researchers concluded that the number of uninsured individuals in the District dropped as much as 43 percent as a result of those previously uninsured signing up for coverage through DC Health Link.
“This new report continues to highlight the success of the Affordable Care Act – showing that more than 16 million uninsured Americans have been able to obtain quality, affordable coverage since the Affordable Care Act became law nearly five years ago on March 23, 2010,” said Texas Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, regarding the national report.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index study shows that the percentage of adults who lack health coverage plunged to a record low in the first quarter. A total of 11.9 percent of adults didn’t have any kind of health insurance in the first quarter of 2015.
As first reported by CNBC, that rate – the lowest since the index began tracking health insurance statuses in 2008 – is one percentage point less than the prior quarter.
And it is 6.1 percentage points lower than the record high hit in the third quarter of 2013, which was right before the ACA exchanges began selling private health plans and directing eligible people to government-run Medicaid programs.
President Barack Obama’s requirement that nearly all Americans have some kind of health coverage or be subject to a tax penalty began in 2014.
In the District, the number of uninsured has steadily declined.
Former Mayor Vincent Gray cited the ACA as a priority during his tenure, and by the end of December 2014, 18,399 previously uninsured District residents gained health coverage through DC Health Link’s individual and family marketplace.
“This shows that our efforts to cover uninsured people are working well.” said Dr. Leighton Ku, chair of the Research Committee of the Executive Board of DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority and professor of health policy at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.
“The District has had one of the lowest uninsured rates in the nation, and we continue to be a leader to achieve near universal coverage for all District residents,” Ku said.
Among age groups, adults ages 26 to 34 saw the largest decrease in their uninsured rate since late 2013, a 7.4 percentage-point plunge, according to the Gallup survey.
And among economic groups, people who earned less than $36,000 annually saw a much bigger drop in their uninsured rate when compared with other groups.
CNBC reported that since 2013, that rate fell by 8.7 percentage points to 22 percent last quarter.
Summarizing the latest findings, researchers at Gallup.com noted that “an improving economy and a falling unemployment rate may also have accelerated the steep drop in the percentage of uninsured over the past year.
“However, the uninsured rate is significantly lower than it was in early 2008, before the depths of the economic recession, suggesting that the recent decline is due to more than just an improving economy,” researchers posted on Gallup.com.
Of the 16.4 million who have gained coverage since the ACA went into effect, 14.1 million are adults, and 2.3 million are young people who can now remain on their parents’ plans until age 26.
Among Latinos, the uninsured rate has dropped by 12.3 percentage points, which means 4.2 million individuals gained health coverage; and among African-Americans, the uninsured rate dropped by 9.2 percentage points, which means 2.3 million people have obtained coverage.
“When it comes to the key measures of affordability, access, and quality, evidence shows that the Affordable Care Act is working, and families, businesses, and taxpayers are better off as a result,” Johnson said.