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Study: Latinos, Poor Most Likely to Remain Uninsured

By Erin Mershon, CQ Roll Call

August 18, 2016 -- Latinos and people with incomes below the federal poverty level are among the populations most likely to lack health insurance coverage six years after the 2010 health overhaul, according to a Commonwealth Fund study released Thursday.

About a third of the country's remaining uninsured adults would qualify for Medicaid if their states had expanded it, the study also found.

The report paints a picture of the 24 million adults who still lack coverage, after about 20 million have gained it either through Medicaid expansion or through the insurance exchanges set up under the law. About 40 percent are Latino and a similar share have incomes below the federal poverty level. A full 88 percent have incomes below 138 percent of the poverty level, the figure used to determine eligibility for Medicaid expansion in the 32 states, including the District of Columbia, that implemented it.

The estimates underscore that affordability remains a challenge for the Obama administration as it looks to cement its signature legislative accomplishment. Republicans and other critics have railed against the proposed premium hikes for plans sold on the exchanges that in some states are in the double digits.

Awareness is also a problem. About 38 percent of the remaining uninsured have never heard of the exchanges, compared with just 21 percent in the overall population. Of those who had heard of the marketplaces, most—about 64 percent—said they couldn't find a plan they could afford.

About 15 percent of the remaining uninsured are undocumented immigrants and thus unable to sign up for coverage because the law doesn't allow it, the report notes.

A separate study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, also released Thursday, painted a rosier picture of enrollment efforts specifically in California, where the foundation conducted a four-year tracking study on about 2,000 people who were uninsured before the health law took effect. About 72 percent of the state's previously uninsured citizens have now gained coverage, Kaiser found.

Like Commonwealth, Kaiser found that about 47 percent of the remaining uninsured reported cost as the number one reason they do not have coverage. It also found that Latinos were disproportionately likely to lack coverage.

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