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Uninsured Rate Ticks Down Again

By Erin Mershon, CQ Roll Call

November 3, 2016 -- The nation's uninsured rate fell to 8.9 percent in the first six months of this year, according to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

The low is not significantly different from the record lows at the end of last year, when the rate was 9.1 percent. The new survey results show that about 28.4 million people remain uninsured, which is 20.2 million fewer than in 2010, before the health law passed.

The 8.9 percent uninsured rate is the lowest rate that the CDC has reported for a six-month period. The CDC previously published data showing an uninsured rate of 8.6 percent in just the first three months of 2016.

The Obama administration has touted the ongoing and historic drops in the uninsured rate as one of the major successes of the 2010 health care overhaul, amid ongoing criticism that coverage under the law is unaffordable.

But the new data don't show a major change in the number of people who signed up for insurance coverage on the law's health exchanges between 2015 and 2016. About 9.4 million adults aged 18 through 64 got their health insurance on the exchanges in the second quarter of 2016, up from 9.3 million in the same period the year before.

The administration hopes to sign up 13.7 million people for 2017 plans during the open enrollment period that started this week, about a million more people than during the last sign-up period. Officials expect average monthly enrollment for 2017 to be 11.4 million. Later in the year, enrollment numbers are often lower because people drop or switch coverage, or fail to pay their premiums.

The CDC figures break out the uninsured rate among adults who are 18 to 64 years old, which is 12.4 percent. For children, about 5.0 percent are uninsured.

The survey also found that across all types of insurance, Americans are increasingly enrolling in high-deductible health plans, which are often cheaper but cover fewer services upfront. Now, 38.8 percent of Americans with private coverage are enrolled in high-deductible plans, up from 25.3 percent before the health law passed.

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