Uninsured rate hits record low, but post-ACA gains are slowing

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The number of people without health insurance fell to an all-time low of 8.6 percent in the first quarter of 2016, according to new data from the CDC, but the gains in insurance enrollment caused by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) appear to be slowing down.

The CDC’s National Health Interview Survey said the uninsured population among all age groups was reduced by 1.3 million people between 2015 and 2016, to a total of 27.3 million. Since 2010, when the ACA was passed, the number of uninsured has been reduced by 21.3 million, but the year-to-year drop for 2016 is much smaller than 8.8 million fewer uninsured in the full-year survey for 2014 and the 7.4 million fewer uninsured in 2015.

“The law is part of the fabric of our country, and while its success is undeniable, we continue to work to strengthen the marketplace, reach more families through Medicaid and reform healthcare delivery to better meet the needs of consumers,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “Our country’s march toward improving access, quality and affordability in healthcare goes on, and today’s numbers show that the [ACA] is continuing to drive historic progress.”

For adults between the ages of 18 and 64, 11.9 percent were uninsured, 19.5 percent had some kind of public coverage and 70.2 percent had private insurance. Public insurance made up a bigger chunk among children 17 and younger, with 42.1 percent having public coverage, 54.9 percent covered by private insurance and 5.4 percent uninsured.

While the uninsured rate did hit a historic low, the survey also found that the health insurance exchanges couldn’t take much of the credit. Among adults aged 18 to 64, the percentage with private coverage through the federal marketplace or state-based exchanges “was not statistically significant,” rising from 4.4 percent (8.6 million) in the first quarter of 2015 to 4.7 percent (9.2 million) in the first quarter of 2016.

The increased coverage also appeared to come with higher out-of-pocket costs. The percentage of people under the age of 65 who were covered by a high-deductible health plan (defined as having a deductible at or above $1,300 for individual coverage or $2,600 for family coverage) hit 40 percent in the first three months of 2016, up from 25.3 percent in 2010 and 36.7 percent in 2015. The percentage of persons under age 65 with private insurance enrolled in those kinds of plans increased, from 25.3 percent in 2010 and 36.7 percent in 2015 to 40.0 percent in the first three months of 2016.