Far more people are insured because of the Affordable Care Act than the White House estimated in May, new research shows.
At least three new studies on the ACA's effect show big increases in the number of newly insured Americans, with the highest estimate topping out at 9.5 million from the Commonwealth Fund.
That compares with the 8 million reported by the White House in May.
It's hardly all good news for the administration's efforts, however. Analysts from the Rand Corporation estimate that while 14.5 million people gained coverage in the last year, about 5 million people were insured before the ACA and lost coverage because of the law — leading to a net gain of around 9 million.
It is unclear how many were left without insurance when the federal government was unable to resolve inconsistencies in reporting and verifying personal information — such as annual income and citizenship — to determine eligibility for subsidies, the Department of Health and Human Services' Inspector General said in a report this month.
Many of the newly-insured are young adults and Hispanics — a key target of enrollment efforts — and younger people tend to be healthier, of course. These groups will be targeted again soon before 2015 enrollment starts Oct. 1, as they are the groups with the highest uninsured rates, analyst Jenna Levy wrote in an ACA report by the polling company Gallup and the health improvement consulting company Healthways.
The uninsured rate for those ages 19 to 34 declined 10%, with an estimated 5.7 million young adults gaining insurance coverage since October 2013, according to the Commonwealth Fund.
Gallup-Healthways reports the percentage of people without insurance fell to 13.4% in the second quarter of 2014 — the lowest quarterly average recorded since the company started tracking health insurance in 2008.
Despite predictions to the contrary, early evidence shows these newly insured people aren't overrunning healthcare providers. A report out Monday from the medical technology company athenahealth and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says there isn't a significant increase in new patients visiting doctors compared to previous years.
Still, as many as 25 million people are expected to be covered through the exchanges and Medicaid expansion in the next two and a half years, says Josh Gray, a VP at athenaResearch, athenahealth's research division, so that could change.
"We're still really in the relatively early stages of a long process," says Gray. "A lot of patients signed up in March, and not all of them are sick."
Most of this is good news for Americans' health, but only if they can find a doctor who will treat them. At least for now, that doesn't appear to be a problem, says Gray, whose parent company does electronic health records and health care coordination for 52,000 health care providers. His study is based on a sample of 14,300 of the doctors who use athenahealth's cloud services.
"The jury's still out on whether the health care delivery system will have trouble absorbing the increased demand resulting from coverage expansion," says Gray. "We haven't seen signs of that yet, but that doesn't mean we won't."
Contributing: Jayne O'Donnell
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