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From Health Law Daily, December 19, 2014

Council of Economic Advisors makes case for the ACA reducing uninsured rates

By Harold M. Bishop, J.D.

A blog post by Jason Furman, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and Matt Fiedler, senior economist on the Council, offers new data to support the contention that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has contributed to the highest health insurance coverage gains in 40 years. 

According to the post, new data released by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) on health insurance coverage during the second quarter of 2014, confirms prior New England Journal of Medicine data that 2014 has seen significant reductions in the share of Americans without health insurance. The NCHS data indicates that the share of Americans without health insurance stood at 11.3 percent in the second quarter of 2014, down from 13.1 percent in the first quarter and from 14.4 percent on average during 2013. This 3.1 percentage point gain purportedly corresponds to 9.7 million Americans gaining health insurance coverage.

The post further claims that with these 2014 declines, America’s uninsured rate is now at or near the lowest level recorded across five decades of data. In addition, they claim that new Medicaid enrollment data shows 9.7 million new Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program enrollees and that 2.5 million consumers have selected Marketplace plans since the beginning of 2015 open enrollment.

Cost and quality claims. The post also offers evidence that the ACA is making progress on cost and quality of care. On costs, their data indicates that the underlying growth in health care prices, premiums, and per-enrollee spending remains slow, which they attribute partly to the ACA’s reforms. In addition, preliminary data from HHS’ Agency for Health Care Research and Quality shows that the rate at which patients are harmed when receiving hospital care has fallen 17 percent from 2010 through 2013, corresponding to an estimated 50,000 avoided deaths and $12 billion in savings over that period.

CEA study. To support their claims that a dramatic increase in the insured in 2014 is due to the ACA, the post cites research by their Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), which constructed a historical graph plotting the share of people without health insurance going back to 1963. According to the CEA graph, the U.S. last saw dramatic gains in health insurance coverage after the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. Large coverage gains continued in the early 1970s due to the continued ramp-up of the Medicaid program and the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid to people with disabilities in 1972. Coverage then eroded during the 1980s and remained somewhat stable until 2014, when dramatic increases have raised the insured level to those only reached in the mid-1970s through 1980. 

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