WASHINGTON (Sept. 13, 2012) — More young adults with health insurance helped reduce the number of U.S. uninsured last year to 48.6 million from 50 million the year before, the U.S. Census Bureau said.
David Johnson, chief of the U.S. Census Bureau's social, economic and housing statistics division, said in a call with reporters that coverage gains among those ages 19 to 25 and increased public insurance coverage accounted for last year's growth in insurance coverage.
New Census Bureau figures show 260.2 million people were insured last year, up from 256.6 million in 2001.
The rate of uninsured among those ages 19 to 25 declined to 27.7 percent, or 8.3 million young adults, in 2011 from 29.8 percent, or 8.8 million young adults the prior year.
Mr. Johnson said young adults with benefits under a parent's insurance plan accounted for 40 percent of the decline in uninsured among those ages 19 to 25. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) extended dependent coverage to adults up to age 26 in September 2010.
For the first time in 10 years, the rate of private insurance coverage in the U.S. did not fall. The percentage and the number of people with private insurance were statistically unchanged, according to the newly released census figures.
Caroline Steinberg, vice president of trends analysis at the American Hospital Association, called the increased number of insured, decrease in the number of uninsured and stable employers-sponsored coverage “a positive development,” but cautioned that gains could be undermined by cuts to federal spending scheduled in January under a 2011 federal deficit reduction deal.
Supporters of the ACA moved quickly to tout the insurance gains as signs of the law's success.
“The new Census Bureau report about uninsured Americans provides clear and unmistakable evidence of the current benefits of ‘ObamaCare' and the need to move forward with the full implementation of the law in 2014,” said Families USA, a consumer advocacy group.
The rate of U.S. uninsured dropped to 15.7 percent in 2011 from 16.3 percent in 2010. It was the largest drop since the Census Bureau adjusted its methodology in 1999.
Public insurance—which includes Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and military benefits—increased to 99.5 million people from 95.5 million the prior year. Mr. Johnson said public insurance coverage increased each of the past five years.
The percentage of those covered by Medicaid increased to 16.5 percent last year from 15.8 percent. Medicare coverage increased to 15.2 percent of the population from 14.6 percent in 2010.
Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, said in a written statement that the ACA contributed to the drop in uninsured young adults and the law “brings signs of real progress” to the “continued moral and economic challenge” of U.S. uninsured.
This report appeared in Crain's Modern Healthcare magazine, a Chicago-based companion publication of Tire Business.