16 million Americans gained health coverage under Obamacare, HHS says

Reuters / Jonathan Alcorn

Reuters / Jonathan Alcorn

The latest analysis from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that more than 16.4 million Americans have acquired health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The report issued Monday was based in part on
findings from a Gallup poll, which found the uninsured rate for
Americans had fallen from 20.3 percent in October 2013 – when the
sign-ups began – to 12.3 percent during the first quarter of
2015. The increases come from sign-ups through the Affordable
Care Act’s health insurance exchanges and the expansion of

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) almost
five years ago, about 16.4 million uninsured people have gained
health coverage – the largest reduction in the uninsured in four
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a
written statement accompanying a new report.

The increase of insured Americans represents a 35 percent
reduction in the number of uninsured, leaving 26 million American
adults without health insurance compared to the previous number
of approximately 40 million.

The greatest changes in coverage gains were among Latinos and
African-Americans, according to a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being
index survey. For Latinos, the uninsured rate was 41.8 percent
before Obamacare was launched. By the first quarter of 2015, that
number dropped by just over 12 percent, leaving 29.5 million
without insurance.

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For African-Americans, 22.4 percent were without insurance by the
first quarter in 2014. That percentage was almost cut in half by
the first quarter of 2015, leaving 13.2 percent of
African-Americans without health insurance.

White Americans, meanwhile, saw a 5.3 percentage point reduction
in their uninsured rate. Just 9 percent remain without health

The overall decline comes from government-run marketplaces that
sell health insurance, the loosening of Medicaid eligibility
requirements in more than half the country and allowing young
adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until they turn 26.

When it comes to the metrics of affordability, access and
quality, the evidence shows that the Affordable Care Act is
working, and families, businesses and taxpayers are better off as
a result,”
said Burwell.

MORE: Cost of Obamacare drops but millions to stay uninsured

There are 28 states and Washington, DC that have expanded their
Medicaid programs, and another 22 states kept their stricter
restrictions on Medicaid eligibility.

The goal of Obamacare was to reduce the number of uninsured
Americans and the latest figures suggest growing progress towards
the goal, but this achievement could be threatened by a lawsuit
being heard by the US Supreme Court. The lawsuit, King v.
Burwell, centers on whether federal subsidies in 34 states that
have not set up their own health insurance markets
(“exchanges”) are legal under the law.

The plaintiffs argue a particular section of the law refers only
to “exchanges established by the state” when mentioning
eligibility for subsidies – meaning it explicitly excludes
marketplaces established by the federal government. The
government is arguing that the phrasing may be unfortunate, but
that the entire law clearly intends that the federal tax credits
apply to people using the federally established exchange, not
just the state ones.

If the Supreme Court rules against the government, that would
mean the end of federal subsidies to more than seven million
Americans in 37 states. This, in turn, would disrupt the fragile
framework of the law that orders Americans to purchase insurance
or face tax penalties, while forbidding the insurers to turn
anyone away. Insurance companies, Democratic lawmakers and
liberal activists argue this would effectively destroy the ACA.

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