News on Wellness

Obamacare: Lack of Health Insurance Still a Problem for Many

health-insuranceWhile the number of uninsured Americans has declined dramatically since the passing of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) this past January, there is still approximately 15% of the US population without health insurance according to a new study sponsored by Transamerica Centell that polled 2,624 adults 64 years of age and younger. In just over 11 months, health coverage dropped from 22% to 15%.

While this appears to be great news, the problem is that the United States Census Bureau typically fails to conduct a good analysis specific to annual changes in insurance coverage. However, survey methods were recently changed by the government, thereby making it possible to more accurately use year-to-year comparisons.

The data from the government released in August found that 86.6% of the US population had health insurance during 2013 and that only 13.4% were without coverage but a very narrow definition of what constitutes an insured person is used.

For instance, if someone had health insurance for only a few months out of the year, the US Census Bureau would consider that person insured. However, if that person had coverage for a short time and then lost a job, in reality there is no longer coverage yet according to the formula used by the Census Bureau, the person is still insured. In comparison, the method used by the Government deems people uninsured if they have no coverage at any time during the year.

With the Transamerica study, the focus was on people who said they had health insurance coverage in July 2014, which explains the very small difference in how coverage is reported. Of uninsured people, approximately 44% are young, between 18 and 34 years of age, and 33% are Latino.

The two primary reasons for being uninsured among these two groups is ignorance of the law and affordability. Of those studied, 11% said that health insurance was too expensive while 27% said that paying the financial penalty according to Obamacare, was less expensive that buying a policy.

Then about 46% of the uninsured US population admitted to not know the law pushed them to get insurance or face stiff penalties. The study also showed that 43% of uninsured Americans had no idea they could apply for subsidies through a state health exchange to help pay the cost of insurance coverage.

Of the individuals asked how much they could afford to pay for health coverage, 42% responded that up to $100 a month was feasible while the rest said that was far too high. Even without paying insurance premiums, uninsured people say they are overwhelmed with the cost of healthcare. According to data gathered, just 22% of the uninsured population could afford to pay for routine health checks like doctor’s office visits and prescription medication.

The median household income for people who are still uninsured is around $37,700, which is 50% less than the $75,200 earned for households with consistent insurance prior to and after the new Obamacare law. However, that is still more than the median income of $33,200 for households who purchased a policy according to the law.

When asked about being satisfied with current coverage, more than 75% of newly insured individuals said they were quite happy. Only a small number of people with continuous insurance noted any difference in coverage after Obamacare and of those who did see a change, 48% said the biggest change was an increase in premiums, co-payments, and deductibles.

On a positive note, earlier reports of companies being reluctant to hire because of them carrying much of the health insurance burden, was overstated. When employers were surveyed as part of the Transamerica study, 33% stated they planned to hire more workers within the next two years. Compared to 2013, only 20% of employers had any intention of hiring.

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