20 Million People Now Have Insurance Due to Health Care Reform

Joe Weinlick
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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, implemented a wide range of health care reforms over several years, culminating in the opening of health insurance exchanges, the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to many and an increased number of coverage options available to Americans. A recent study reports on the people now insured thanks to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act's reforms.

The 6-month open enrollment period for Obamacare ended March 31, 2014, though enrollment for certain individuals and several states extended though April 15. After this initial period, the Obama administration announced that Whitehouse.gov data indicated that 7.1 million Americans signed up for private health insurance coverage.

Though opponents questioned the accuracy of this figure, and independent surveys and studies cited different totals depending on the data sources used and the actual data points included, most concluded that the Affordable Care Act did indeed result in an increased number of people with health insurance.

In a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine based on research by the Commonwealth Fund, the authors claim that health care reform laws enacted by the Affordable Care Act has resulted in 20 million new enrollments in health insurance as of May 1, 2014. This report includes more comprehensive sets of data, including more than just the new enrollments submitted through the insurance marketplaces. Analysts also tallied people who purchased health insurance directly from insurance companies and people who gained coverage due to Affordable Care Act provisions. For example, reform regulations expanded coverage under the Children's Health Insurance Program, and over half the states expanded Medicaid eligibility.

One Affordable Care Act provision allows individuals under the age of 26 to be covered under their parents' plans. In this age group, an estimated 7.8 million people have enrolled in health insurance. The Commonwealth Fund findings report 8 million people enrolled through the new health insurance marketplaces, and 5 million bought health insurance coverage directly from insurers.

It is important to note, though, that the report does not differentiate between new enrollees who previously were uninsured and those who simply enrolled in a new health insurance plan. Instead, the researchers tally the total number of new enrollments that occurred that could be attributed to Obamacare.

Speculation abounds as to whether the number of insured will change significantly over the course of time. Those who missed the first enrollment period will be able to apply for health insurance once the next open enrollment begins. Those who chose not to enroll may decide differently in order to avoid paying a penalty at tax time. Regardless of future figures, though, the tens of millions of newly insured individuals represent a significant achievement nonetheless.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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