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Census Data Show Uninsured Rate Fell Slightly in 2013, Continuing Earlier Progress

Some 14.5 percent of Americans were uninsured in 2013, Census figures released today based on the American Community Survey (ACS) show, a slight but statistically significant reduction from 2012’s 14.8 percent and well below the recent high of 15.5 percent in 2010 (see graph).

The most widely used source of health coverage information is the Current Population Survey (CPS), but, as Census officials explained this morning, changes instituted to it in 2013 don’t allow for a historical analysis using CPS data.

Much of the improvement in health coverage since 2010 reflects health reform provisions permitting young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26 and building upon previous coverage gains for children under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program by requiring states to keep their existing eligibility rules and procedures.

The results are for 2013 and so do not reflect the coverage gains in 2014 resulting from the major ACA coverage provisions, which took effect on January 1 — namely, the Medicaid expansion and subsidized marketplace coverage.  But updated data from four independent surveys show substantial reductions in the number and percentage of uninsured in 2014, particularly among states taking up the Medicaid expansion.

Consistent with those independent surveys, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released preliminary survey results showing a 1.3 percentage-point decline in the uninsured rate between 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, reflecting a 3.8 million reduction in the number without health coverage.  CDC data that include the second quarter of 2014 (as some of the independent surveys cited above did) will likely show even larger coverage gains.

The CDC’s estimated 13.1 percent uninsured rate is the lowest since it began collecting these data in 1997.  (The CDC data are not directly comparable to the Census data cited above.)