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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ACA Works for Young Adults as Planned; Percentage of Uninsured Hispanics also Falls

On Tuesday, the Census Bureau released its annual report on income, poverty, and health insurance for the year 2010. Based on surveys at approximately 100,000 addresses conducted primarily in March 2011, the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement found that the number of uninsured in the U.S. rose by 919,000, from 49.0 to 49.9 million (see Table 8). (Note that this reflects a downward revision in the estimate for uninsured in 2009.) There were two bright spots in the data, however, for young adults and Hispanics.

On September 23, 2010, one of the most significant early provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect, allowing young adults to stay on their parents' insurance until they turned 26 years old. The Census Bureau report shows that this provision was used by a substantial number of people. Since this provision affected 19-25 year olds, the report broke out the data separately for this age group: 393,000 fewer of them were uninsured in 2010 than in 2009, with the percentage uninsured falling from 31.4% to 29.7%; both of these changes were statistically significant. This shows that the Affordable Care Act worked precisely as planned for young adults.

In addition, the percentage of uninsured Hispanics fell by a statistically significant 0.9 percentage points, from 31.6% to 30.7%, between 2009 and 2010. While the fall in the number uninsured was small (110,000) and statistically not significant, when combined with an increase in the Hispanic population of over 1 million, the percentage change was substantial. The report does not speculate on the reason more Hispanics were insured. Indeed, despite the fact that the poverty rate increased among Hispanics by 1.3 percentage points (Table 4), the number of Hispanics insured under every category of insurance, private and public, increased between 2009 and 2010. For example, almost 900,000 more Hispanics had insurance through their employers, even as non-Hispanic whites had a drop of 1.9 million receiving insurance through their employers (Table C-2).

Despite this improvement, Hispanics were by far the ethnic group most likely to suffer being uninsured. Their rate of 30.7% uninsured compares unfavorably with blacks (20.8%), Asians (18.1%), and non-Hispanic whites (11.7%).

Given the fact that the uninsurance rate among 19-25 year olds is still almost 30%, there would seem to be a good possibility that we will see even more improvement here after this fall's annual enrollment periods, thanks to the ACA.

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