BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Separate from the Census Bureau’s release today of official health coverage figures for 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued preliminary data this morning showing that the ranks of the uninsured fell in the first quarter of 2014 by 3.8 million people. The CDC data provide the first government survey data showing the early impacts of health reform’s major coverage expansions, which took effect in January 2014, in reducing the ranks of the uninsured.
The CDC figures are consistent with four independent surveys that also show significant gains in health coverage in 2014, particularly among states that have adopted health reform’s Medicaid expansion.
Some 13.1 percent of Americans were uninsured in the first quarter of 2014, the CDC data show, a 1.3 percentage-point decline from 2013 and the lowest uninsured rate since the CDC first collected these data in 1997.
Coverage gains were greatest among population groups historically least likely to have coverage. The uninsured rate for adults under 26 plummeted from 26.5 percent in 2013 to 20.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014. People in families under 200 percent of the poverty line, Latinos, African Americans, and people with less than a high school education also experienced disproportionately high coverage gains over this period.
The coverage gains among non-elderly adults were more than twice as large in states that have adopted the Medicaid expansion as in non-expansion states, widening the gap between the uninsured rates in the two groups of states from 4.3 percentage points to 5.8 percentage points. (Expansion states have a non-elderly adult uninsured rate of 15.7 percent, compared to 21.5 percent for non-expansion states; see graph.)
The CDC data were collected in January-March and do not fully capture the significant enrollment growth in states’ Medicaid programs and health reform marketplaces that took place towards the end of this period, as the March 31 deadline for enrolling in marketplace coverage approached. Data that include the second quarter of 2014 — as several of the independent surveys cited above did — will likely show even larger coverage gains. For example, the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey found that the uninsured rate among adults aged 18-64 fell from 17.9 percent to 13.9 percent between the third quarter of 2013 and the second quarter of 2014.
Later today, the Census Bureau may also release similar preliminary estimates for early 2014, but these estimates — unlike the CDC estimates discussed here — are the first in a new series and thus can’t be compared to estimates from earlier years.