Health Care Mythbusters

The latest research takes a close, scientific look at the before and after of the first enrollment period and offers a lot of good news for the Affordable Care Act.

Six Pieces of Great News In The Latest Research On The ACA

We’ve heard the conservative critics of the Affordable Care Act express their skepticism of the law’s successes many times. Not enough uninsured Americans are signing up for coverage. Individuals with coverage through the ACA can’t access the doctors that they want. People with ACA insurance coverage are worse off than they were before the law went into effect.

Turns out, new research from The Commonwealth Fund dispels these myths — and finds that even Republicans with new health coverage through the ACA exchanges are happy with the results.

Here are six key findings from the survey:

1. The Uninsured Rate In America Has Fallen From 20 Percent To 15 Percent. According to the Commonwealth survey, the uninsured rate for adults under age 65 dropped from 20 percent before the ACA marketplaces opened last September to 15 percent in their April-to-June 2014 survey period. That amounts to 9.5 million fewer uninsured adults. More than three-in-five (63 percent) who selected a private plan or enrolled in Medicaid said that they were uninsured prior to gaining coverage. This isn’t the first report to make the case that millions of uninsured got covered thanks to the ACA: Gallup has also seen a precipitous drop in individuals without coverage.

2. People Who Signed Up For New ACA Insurance Plans Are Happy With Them–Including Republicans. Overall, 78 percent of new enrollees were very or somewhat satisfied with their new health insurance, including 73 percent of those enrolling in private plans and 84 percent of those enrolling in Medicaid. What is even more noteworthy is that nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Republicans reported being satisfied with their coverage, too.

3. In States That Expanded Medicaid, The Uninsured Rate For Those In Poverty Plummeted. The percent of uninsured adults with incomes at 100 percent of the federal poverty line or below dropped sharply in the states that expanded Medicaid, from 28 percent to 17 percent. But the other side of the story isn’t as positive: in the states that have continued to put politics over people and refuse to expand health care to low-income Americans, there was no significant change in insurance coverage among those in poverty.

4. The Groups Most In Need Of Coverage Are Seeing The Biggest Gains. Plenty of the law’s followers, both supporters and opponents alike, were unsure at the beginning if young people would sign up for insurance. The Commonwealth survey reaffirms that they did. In fact, young adults ages 19 to 34 the largest decline in uninsured rate among all age groups, from 28 percent to 18 percent. And among racial groups, Latinos were the most likely to be without insurance coverage; they are also the ones seeing the biggest gains, with the percent uninsured falling from 36 percent to 23 percent.

5. Most People Are Finding The Doctors They Want And The Care They Need. Among adults who enrolled in new coverage, more than half (54 percent) said that their plan included all or some of the doctors they wanted. Of the new enrollees who tried to find a primary care doctor, three-quarters found it easy or somewhat easy. And of those who found a doctor, two-thirds got an appointment within two weeks. Perhaps even more importantly, three in five enrollees have already used their new coverage for health care services (either doctor/hospital visit or filling prescription) and 62 percent of these people couldn’t have accessed or afforded this care before the ACA.

6. People Agree They Are Better Off. The majority of people in the survey (58 percent) thought they were better off with their new health coverage. A minority (27 percent) thought they were basically the same as they were before. Just 9 percent of respondents thought they were worse off with their new coverage.

In other related news, it turns out that all that anti-Affordable Care Act advertising by the Koch brothers may have actually helped the law.

BOTTOM LINE: The latest research takes a close, scientific look at the before and after of the first enrollment period and offers a lot of good news for the law. The Affordable Care Act is working: the stronger the evidence gets, the harder the conservative myths about it fall.

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Advocacy Team