New Study Finds Profound Income Divide in Health Care; Reform Law Will Help

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<p>Americans who have low or moderate incomes are more likely to lack health insurance and a regular source of health care, and more likely to struggle getting the care they need, according to the first Commonwealth Fund Health Insurance Tracking Survey of U.S. Adults. </p><p>As reported in the new issue brief <a href="/publications/issue-briefs/2012/feb/income-divide-health-care-how-affordable-care-act-will-help">The Income Divide in Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Help Restore Fairness to the U.S. Health System</a>, 57 percent of adults in low-income families (those earning less than about $30,000 for a family of four) were uninsured for some time in the past year, as were 36 percent of those in moderate-income families (earning between about $30,000 and $56,000). In contrast, just 12 percent of adults in families earning above $89,000 were uninsured during the year. </p>
<p>The survey finds that lack of insurance coverage, as well as income, is significantly associated with poor access to care, including receipt of crucial preventive screenings. And having insurance means the difference between having a regular source of care and not having one. “People with low and moderate incomes run the highest risk of lacking job-based health insurance, are least able to afford health insurance on their own, and are the most at risk of not being able to afford care in the absence of coverage,” said Commonwealth Fund vice president Sara Collins, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. </p>
<p>The authors say the Affordable Care Act is already helping to narrow the profound income inequities in the U.S. health care system—for example, by expanding health coverage for 2.5 million 19-to-25-year-olds and requiring insurers to cover preventive care without copayments. But the greatest impact will be felt in 2014, when the law greatly expands eligibility for Medicaid coverage, makes many more affordable, subsidized coverage options available through the new insurance exchanges, and prevents insurers from denying coverage or charging more based on gender or preexisting conditions. </p>
<p>This study is the first in The Commonwealth Fund’s new <em>Tracking Trends in Health System Performance</em> series, which will examine how health reform is affecting people’s health coverage and care over time. </p>
<p>Also available is an <a href="~/media/8DF172D8000544C6B348633D20C96300.gif">infographic</a> highlighting survey data.</p>