Access to Health Care Unchanged After Obamacare’s First Year

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released early estimates of health insurance and access to health care for January through September 2014. The National Health Insurance Survey (NHIS) is (in my opinion) the most effective survey of health insurance, because it asks people three different but important questions: Are they uninsured at the time of the survey? Have they been uninsured for at least part of the year? Have they been uninsured for more than a year?

As shown in Figure 2, the proportion of long-term uninsured is about the same as it was circa 2000. The proportion of short-term uninsured has shrunk a little in Obamacare’s first year.

F2However, this masks a dramatic increase in government dependency among working-age adults, which was not primarily due to Obamacare. In 1997, 72.8 percent of those aged 18 to 64 years had private coverage. In 2010, this bottomed out at 64.1 percent. It is now 67 percent. And that may be an over estimate, because it includes people who have bought subsidized health insurance on Obamacare exchanges. Health insurance bought on an Obamacare exchanges is not fully private, because purchasers spend some of their own money, but most of the premiums are paid by taxpayers. It would be more informative if the NHIS more clearly separated exchange coverage from private coverage.

Further, this increase in government dependency has not lead to a change in access to health care. The proportion of people of all ages with a “usual place to go for medical care” was 87.8 percent last year, the same as it was in 2002-2003. Further, 5.7 percent reported that they failed to obtain needed medical care due to cost last year, the same as it was in 2003-2004.

These results confirm that the effects of the 2008 financial crisis and recession, and slow recovery, far outweigh Obamacare’s effect on access to health care.

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