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Rate of Americans Skipping Necessary Care Drops, CDC Data Show

By Erin Mershon, CQ Roll Call

May 24, 2016 -- The percentage of Americans who forgo needed medical care due to cost has dropped significantly since the 2010 federal health law passed, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released last week.

The CDC-run National Health Interview Survey found that 4.5 percent of Americans couldn't afford needed medical care in 2015, compared with 6.9 percent in 2009 and 2010. The metric hit a peak in those two years and has been steadily declining since—coinciding with the passage of the 2010 federal health overhaul.

That drop is good news for advocates of the health law, who have seen the overhaul hit with criticisms that the coverage provided is unaffordable for many, especially as premiums and deductibles rise. It highlights the dramatic impact the law has had on access to care for low-income Americans, many of whom benefit from an expansion of Medicaid or from tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies.

Before the passage of the health law, the data shows a steady climb in the percentage of Americans who skipped necessary care because of high costs, from about 4.2 percent in 1998 to 6.5 percent by 2008.

In 2015, more women than men skipped necessary care because of cost. More black Americans and Hispanic Americans skipped care than non-Hispanic white Americans, at rates of 5.8 percent, 5.4 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.

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