Los Angeles Times by Chad Terhune –
July 10, 2014:
The percentage of Californians without health insurance was cut in half in the last nine months during the federal health law’s expansion of coverage, a new survey shows.
Nationwide, an estimated 9.5 million adults under the age of 65 gained health insurance between late summer 2013 and last month, according to a survey the Commonwealth Fund released Thursday.
Those gains during the rollout of Obamacare dropped the nation’s rate of uninsured from 20% last year to 15% now. The change was even larger in California with the proportion of uninsured declining from 22% in late summer 2013 to 11% by early June, the survey found.
A separate report in December said there were an estimated 7 million Californians without health insurance in 2012, or 21.2% of the state’s population, according to the California HealthCare Foundation. That was the seventh-highest percentage in the country at the time.
California officials expect more detailed figures on how many residents are newly insured to be available this fall from a statewide survey.
The national results in the Commonwealth Fund survey mirror other recent estimates from health-policy researchers.
“The findings suggest that the Affordable Care Act is beginning to achieve its central goal — reducing the number of Americans who are uninsured and improving access to healthcare,” said Sara Collins, the lead researcher and a vice president at the Commonwealth Fund.
The Commonwealth Fund is a New York foundation that supports healthcare research. The survey included 4,425 adults ages 19 to 64.
Its survey found that the largest gains in coverage were among young adults 19 to 34 years old, Latinos and low-income people.
Nationally, the uninsured rate among Latinos dropped to 23% from 36% last year, according to the survey.
The changes in coverage varied across the country because some states didn’t expand their Medicaid programs as allowed for under the federal health law.
Texas, which didn’t expand Medicaid, saw its uninsured rate among adults fall from 34% to 22%. Florida saw a smaller decline, from 30% to 26%.
California officials have said that about 1.2 million people have enrolled and paid their initial premiums for private health plans through the state’s insurance exchange, Covered California. Many other individuals bought policies outside the exchange.
An additional 2 million people have been deemed eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for lower-income people. But that program continues to be plagued by a severe backlog of applications.
At last count, state officials said about 600,000 Californians were still awaiting word on their Medi-Cal eligibility and coverage.
In the private insurance market, one of the biggest consumer gripes has been about smaller provider networks and confusion over which doctors and hospitals are available.
In its national survey, the Commonwealth Fund said 54% of people with new coverage said their health plan included all or some of the doctors they wanted.
Also, more than 60% of adults who found a primary-care doctor said they were able to get an appointment within two weeks. Fifteen percent reported waiting longer than a month for their first appointment.
At the beginning of June, 60% of adults with new policies said they had used their health plan to see a doctor, visit a hospital or get a prescription filled, according to the survey.