Thursday, July 24, 2014

Credble Numbers on Obamacare: And Why is the 16.3% Prevalence of Persons Without Health Insurance Good News?

The signed Affordable Care Act
We finally have some credible numbers on what's happened to insurance enrollment under Obamacare. The paper can be found here.

The authors used the ongoing Gallup-Healthways survey that questions representative samples of the U.S. population about their health insurance status. Since it began, this repeat survey has assessed changes in the coverage of adults 18 to 64 years of age. The authors used these data to assess the trends in insurance status that were associated with the roll-out of Obamacare between January 2012 to June 2014.

For all of 2012 and the first part of 2013, the nation's uninsured rate was 20% to 21%.  Following the star-crossed open enrollment period that began in the fall of 2013, the uninsured rate began to drop.  By April of 2014, it fell to 16.3%. 

Depending on the underlying statistical assumptions, the absolute percent increase in Americans with insurance ranged between 4.2% to 7.1%. States that took the Feds up on their offer to underwrite Medicaid expansion saw a absolute decline of 6%  of low-income Americans having no insurance.

The Population Health Blog predicted that the 2014 outcomes from Obamacare would have something for everyone.  For the news outlets (like this and this) with a reputation of being sympathetic to the Administration, positive spin abounded. In the meantime, more skeptical reporters tried to poke some holes in the data, saying the increase in insurance coverage was really thanks to gains in employment or was in reality a lousy deal thanks to narrow networks.

The PHB's take?

It's struck by the relatively modest decline in the percent of uninsured Americans. Considering the heavy price we've paid, that lingering 16.3% rate is a lot.

That price?  It includes not only the hit to our national fisc, but paralyzing partisan rancor, endless and unpredictable litigation and the precedents of White House 'pen and phone' fiat by regulation. The latter will almost certainly be used by a future Presidents on both sides of the aisle.

And so it goes.

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