Some Good News: Fewer Americans Are Uninsured

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For much of the last decade, we have heard the same story: every year more Americans lose their health insurance coverage and the ranks of the uninsured grow. With new data released today by the Census Bureau, the story has changed — and we have the Affordable Care Act to partly thank for it.

The number of uninsured Americans dropped by 1.3 million, going from 50 million in 2010 to 48.6 million in 2011 — and the share of Americans without health insurance declined by more than in any year since 1999.

This gain in coverage was driven in part by an increase in the number of young adults who have health coverage. This appears to be largely the result of a provision in the Affordable Care Act allowing people under the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ private health insurance plans.

Public insurance programs including the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid also helped maintain insurance coverage for children in 2011. A little-known provision of the Affordable Care Act requires states to maintain eligibility levels in these programs, helping to keep the rate of insurance among children and adults stable.

All of which illustrates the critical importance of implementing the rest of the health care reform law, including the opportunity to expand the state’s Medicaid program to more working adults who can’t afford to purchase private health insurance. 

This opportunity could bring $17 billion into Pennsylvania’s economy to support additional health coverage to working adults between 2014 and 2020. But it will be up to state lawmakers to decide whether to extend coverage.

If you want to read more about the Census data released today, including some Pennsylvania-specific numbers, check out our overview of the Census data, or get an in-depth look at the national numbers from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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