Obamacare Is Working, Cont’d

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SEPTEMBER 12, 2012

Obamacare Is Working, Cont’d

Attention Obamacare haters: The law you despise appears to be working.

The Census Bureau this morning released its annual report on income, poverty, and health insurance.  My colleagues will be back later to discuss the income findings, but I want to flag the health care numbers right away. For the first time in three years, the proportion of Americans who have health insurance went up, from 83.7 percent in 2010 to 84.3 percent in 2011. 

And what explains the shift? The breakdown by age offers some clues. Relative to last year, the percentage of young adults with health insurance rose by 2.2 points. That was the largest increase of any group. And it was the second year in a row that coverage among young adults increased. Overall, according to Census officials, the percentage of young Americans has gone up by about 4 percent during that span.

As you probably know, the Affordable Care Act allows young adults to enroll on their parents’ health insurance plans if they have no access to coverage on their own. That provision surely doesn’t account for all of the young adults getting coverage. But it surely explains a lot of it.

Larry Levitt, a leading expert on health care policy and senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, offered this assessment via e-mail:

It is certainly good news that the number of Americans uninsured is down for the first time in many years, with private insurance holding steady and Medicaid serving as a safety net in a lingering tough economy. The biggest decline in the ranks of the uninsured is among young adults aged 19-25. This suggests that the Affordable Care Act provision allowing young people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ policies is succeeding at increasing the number of people with health insurance. The dependent coverage provision may be the sleeper among the parts of the health reform law already in effect, and it’s not surprisingly that it’s quite popular, even among those opposed to the law in general.

The requirement that insurers offer coverage to young adults is one of several regulations that Obamacare put in place right away. Others require insurers to cover preventative care without cost-sharing and prohibit insurers from imposing lifetime caps on benefits. Critics of the health care law predicted that such regulations would cause premiums to skyrocket. But that hasn’t happened. On the contrary, employer premiums rose just 4 percent last year, according to yesterday’s annual report from the Health Research and Educational Trust and Kaiser Foundation.

So more young people are getting insurance through their parents’ policies. Other people are getting insurance through Medicaid, a government insurance program that Obamcare expands. As a result, fewer americans are facing crippling medical bills and going without recommended medical care. Critics predicted that insurers would respond to the new regulations by jacking up premiums, making insurance less available. So far, at least, it hasn’t happened.

Yeah, that health care law was a terrible idea. 

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posted in: jonathan cohn, politics, health care, kaiser family foundation, bureau of the census, the plank

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