As the debate surrounding the efficacy, implementation, and design of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues, it is important to check in on the healthcare landscape as it currently stands. How many Americans remain uninsured? How have healthcare costs changed in the last year? Have health outcomes changed?
These questions will help assess not only the impact of the ACA, but also the welfare of the American populace overall.
How many Americans remain uninsured?
Gallup recently released a study concluding that the uninsured rate among U.S. adults averaged 12.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, the lowest it has been in the last 7 years. The largest gains have been in states that chose to expand minimum requirements for Medicaid. Those states have seen on average twice the decline in the number of uninsured residents.
By demographic segment, the largest changes in insurance status have been among low-income, African American, and young populations. These groups have seen over a 6 percent decrease in the number of uninsured in the last year, a reduction 45 percent greater than the national average.
Gallup reported that “the Hispanic population remains a key target of the healthcare law's marketing efforts, as it continues to be the subgroup with the highest uninsured rate, at 32.4 percent.”
How have healthcare costs changed in the last year?
Although healthcare costs vary widely from state to state, the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform found that premium rates have gone up by a median of 4 percent in 2015. Premium prices, however, can be reduced with premium tax credits if the plans are purchased through a state marketplace. Last year’s open enrollment period saw 85 percent of enrollees qualify for premium subsidies with those subsidies lowering the cost by an average of 76 percent.
Although healthcare costs vary from state to state, the demographic who observed the largest change in cost is the low-income population. Health insurance was previously cost prohibitive to many low-income individuals who fell outside of Medicaid coverage, and with Medicaid expansion and premium tax credits this segment now has increased access to health insurance they can afford.
Have health outcomes changed?
The fundamental goal of health insurance is to increase our access to medical care. Although it is too early to definitively tell the effect the Affordable Care Act has had on our nation’s health, preliminary results show that preventive screenings have increased in the United States as has healthcare consumption by young Americans.
The law extends coverage under a parent’s plan until the age of 26, and a recent study showed that young adults aged 23 to 25 reported an increase in regular visits to a primary care doctor and a decrease in the number of instances where they had to forgo medical treatment because they could not afford it. Young college graduates are also reporting far more regular doctor’s visits and a feeling of excellent health than before the passage of the ACA.
The healthcare industry is growing and changing in reaction to the Affordable Care Act. Healthcare trends for 2015 include a continued drop in the rate of uninsured Americans and rise in the use of preventive care services.
Let us know your thoughts on healthcare trends for 2015 in the comments below.