New U.S. Census Data on the Uninsured Underscores Need for Expanded Coverage
Two weeks from the launch of Affordable Care Act’s new state insurance marketplaces, new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau today show that 48 million Americans lacked health insurance in 2012 (Exhibit 1).
But the lack of marked improvement in 2012 underscores the need for the coverage provisions at the center of the reform law, which will provide millions of Americans without health insurance new opportunities for affordable coverage beginning in January 2014.
Private Insurance. Despite concerns that the health reform law will cause employers to drop health insurance coverage, the share of people with employer-based coverage did not change last year. About 55 percent of the population has health benefits through their own employer, or that of a spouse, partner, or parent, which is unchanged from 2011 (Exhibit 3). There was also no change in the percentage of people who were uninsured who were employed full time (15.5%) or less than full time (27.7%) over 2011–2012.
Public Insurance. Public insurance coverage, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), continues to be a critical source of coverage for people of all ages without job-based health insurance. In fact, the percentage of people with coverage through a government program, including the military, climbed from 32.2 to 32.6 percent. This is likely a major reason why a smaller share of people were uninsured in 2012 overall. More than 101 million people had health insurance through government programs in 2012, up from 99.5 million people in 2011. The percentage of people covered by Medicaid stood at 16.4 percent in 2012, or 50.9 million (Exhibit 4). Medicaid coverage has helped people of all ages, but children and older adults particularly benefit. More than one-third (36%) of children under age 18 are now insured through Medicaid or CHIP. And more than 40 million people age 65 and over, the post–World War II “boomers,” are enrolled in Medicare.
Looking Forward. Today’s Census report reflects the effects of the Affordable Care Act among young adults, the strength of employer-based coverage, and the essential role of public insurance programs in the nation’s health system. But the fact that 48 million people are uninsured today underlines how essential the law’s new insurance options are to families across the country desperately in need of health insurance. The gains in coverage made by young adults since 2009 is a preview of the sweeping changes we will see after the state insurance marketplaces and Medicaid expansions go into effect just three-and-one-half months from now. Full state participation in the Affordable Care Act would ensure that all citizens fully benefit from the protections available under the law.