The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that a total of 16.4 million non-elderly adults have gained health insurance coverage since the Affordable Care Act became law in February of 2011, when the single biggest adjustment to America’s upside-down healthcare system got a radical overhaul that Republicans did not vote for and have distanced themselves from ever since.
HHS called the reduction in the number of uninsured “historic,” saying the percentage of people without coverage has dropped by about a third since 2012: from 20.3 percent to 13.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015. Included in the five-year old law’s population catchment are 2.3 million young adults aged 18 to 26 who were able to remain on their parents’ health insurance, plus another 14.1 million adults who obtained coverage through expansions of the Medicaid program, new marketplace coverage and other sources.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich hasn’t been smart enough to understand the fundamentals of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, claiming it’s flawed and that it should be reformed. But he was smart enough to know the political value of accepting $2.5 billion, in spite of grumbling at the source of the funds. Kasich’s protestations while taking the money was political theater at its best. Unlike other state governors who held true to their North Star of opposing President Obama and his policies, Gov. Kasich, who may be so in love with his goal of cutting income taxes that he’ll take the devil’s money if it furthers that goal, bucked Republicans in the legislature who, had they had their way, would have placed Ohio among the states who shunned the expansion of Medicaid.
“The Affordable Care Act is working to drive down the number of uninsured and the uninsured rate,” Richard Frank, HHS assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, said, the Kaiser Health News reported. “Nothing since the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid has seen this kind of change.”
Who was most helped by our gifted five-year old? Latinos, who traditionally have been least likely to have health coverage, experienced the largest drop in their uninsured rate. The Latino uninsured rate fell 12.3 percentage points, from 41.8 percent to 29.5 percent. African Americans also saw great gains in the law designed to cover the approximately 15 percent of the population not eligible for Medicare who couldn’t get healthcare through their employer. For African-Americans, their uninsured rate dropped by nearly half, from 22.4 percent to 13.2 percent. HHS said the rate for non-Latino whites fell by just over five percentage points.
States like Ohio that expanded the Medicaid program to 138 percent of the poverty line also saw large reductions in their low-income uninsured populations, an average of 13 percent among people with incomes under the new Medicaid threshold. States that have not expanded the program, all Republican run, still saw a decline of about 7 percent.
In Ohio, those benefiting from Obamacare are on the rise. The Ohio Department of Medicaid reports that one-third more people are part of the enrollment expansion than anticipated, pushing the overall Medicaid roll to nearly 3 million, or 1 in 4 Ohioans. Cost for that coverage costs is expected to reach $2.7 billion by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Tea Party advocates tried to caution Gov. Kasich that even though the federal government will pay the entire tab of the expansion through 2016, it will only increase the national debt. Gov. Kasich, who likes to think of himself as a deficit hawk and who is out pushing a federal balanced budget amendment yet refuses to say what he would cut, knows that it’s always a good deal when Washington covers costs, as it will with Medicaid expansion: 100 percent for the first three years and no lower than 90 percent by 2020. Ohio and other states will be responsible for the balance, and as we know, Gov. Kasich is a big advocate of personal responsibility, which also applies to state governments.
HHS had earlier reported that nearly 89,000 Ohioans signed up for health coverage through Ohio’s federally run state marketplace in the first month of open enrollment. The number of signups from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 was more than double the 40,000 Ohioans who had signed up through Dec. 28 of last year during the first annual open enrollment. One explanation for the good numbers is because 52 percent of signups this year were consumers who already had marketplace coverage and were actively re-enrolling compared to 48 percent for new ones.
Ohio is on-track to have about 300,000 residents signed up for 2015 private-plan coverage through the marketplace, including those Ohioans who are automatically re-enrolled, according to Enroll America, a pro-ACA group. If true, this would be about double the 155,000 who signed up during the 2013-14 open-enrollment period for coverage this year. Further evidence comes from CareSource, a Dayton-based nonprofit selling marketplace coverage in central Ohio, which said it has enrolled about 20,000 consumers across 43 counties, a number that includes both new enrollees and active re-enrollees but not automatic re-enrollees. Better yet, nearly 68 percent of those consumers are new enrollees.
Another factor pushing signups could be the increasing penalty for not seeking coverage. The annual penalty for going without health insurance can be more than three times as high for 2015 as it was for 2014. That cost in participation will rise from $95, or 1 percent of yearly household income (whichever is higher), to $325 per adult, or 2 percent of yearly household income, for 2015.