Gains in insurance coverage stalled in 2016

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For the first time since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law in 2010, there wasn’t an improvement in the number of people with health insurance last year.

Approximately 28.6 million people were uninsured in 2016, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unchanged from the 2015 figure. The uninsured rate did tick down slightly to a flat 9 percent, which represents a new record low after it hit 9.1 percent for 2015.

The slowdown isn’t a surprise, as partial-year reports in 2016 had shown post-ACA gains in coverage were beginning to peter out.

"It looks like we are kind of sticking a landing and holding on to the gains," Katherine Hempstead, senior adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said to the Associated Press. "To increase coverage, you would have to see more states take up the Medicaid expansion, and some reforms to increase take-up in the individual market."

Before the ACA was passed, the uninsured rate had stood at 16 percent, with 20 million more people lacking insurance than in the 2016 figures

Among the other insurance coverage statistics in the report:

  • Among adults aged 18 to 64, 12.4 percent were uninsured, 20 percent had public coverage and 69.2 percent had private coverage. For children under 18, the breakdown was 5.1 percent uninsured, 43 percent on public coverage and 53.8 percent on private coverage.
  • Some 4.7 percent of adults were covered by plans purchased on the ACA exchanges.
  • The percentage of people enrolled in a high-deductible health plan increased, from 36.7 percent in 2015 to 39.4 percent in 2016.
  • In 2016, adults aged 25 to 34 were almost twice as likely as adults 45 to 64 to lack insurance coverage, illustrating the problems the exchanges have in getting younger, healthier people to buy insurance.
  • Hispanic adults had the highest rate of uninsured among the measured ethnic groups at 25 percent.