QuickTake: Insurance Coverage Gains Cross Economic, Social, and Geographic Boundaries
Adele Shartzer, Sharon K. Long, Michael Karpman, Genevieve M. Kenney, and Stephen Zuckerman
April 27, 2015
The Urban Institute has been using the Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS) to examine trends in health insurance coverage since the first quarter of 2013. Recent HRMS data show an estimated 15.0 million adults ages 18 to 64 (95% confidence interval [11.9 million, 18.1 million]) gained coverage between September 2013, just before the first open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) health insurance Marketplaces, and March 2015, just after the close of the second open enrollment period (Long et al. 2015). This QuickTake explores how coverage changed between September 2013 and March 20151 for different subgroups of nonelderly adults based on demographic, socioeconomic, and geographic characteristics, building upon previous analyses (Karpman, Skopec and Long 2015; Karpman et al. 2015; Shartzer, Kenney, and Zuckerman 2015). This QuickTake provides insight into the wide diffusion of coverage gains among nonelderly adults and highlights groups for whom uninsurance is still relatively high more than one year after implementation of the ACA’s major coverage provisions.
We find that significant declines in uninsurance were reported across demographic, socioeconomic, and geographic subgroups of nonelderly adults, with gains particularly large for subgroups with high levels of uninsurance before the coverage expansions (table 1).2 For example, the uninsurance rate dropped nearly 10 percentage points for young adults ages 18 to 30; roughly 15 percentage points for Hispanic adults, adults who are Spanish speakers or bilingual, and adults who are not citizens; and almost 20 percentage points for unemployed adults. All subgroups saw a decline in uninsurance of least 25 percent since September 2013.3 Some groups saw their uninsurance rate more than halved, including adults ages 50 to 64, college graduates, and adults in states that had implemented the ACA’s Medicaid expansion as of March 1, 2015. Despite these widespread gains in coverage, some subgroups continued to have uninsurance rates above 20 percent in March 2015. For example, 22.7 percent of adults with family income at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (the range targeted by the ACA’s Medicaid expansion) and 31.7 percent of noncitizens were uninsured in March 2015. The latter estimate likely reflects the lack of eligibility for Medicaid and Marketplace coverage for many noncitizens. Future HRMS work will provide an in-depth look at these remaining uninsured adults and outline both strategies to expand coverage for those who have coverage options available to them and the implications of eligibility gaps for those who do not.
Methods: Each round of the HRMS is weighted to be nationally representative. We use these weights and regression adjustment to control for differences in the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the respondents across the different rounds of the survey. This allows us to remove changes in insurance coverage caused by changes in the types of people responding to the survey over time rather than by changes in the health insurance landscape. The basic patterns shown for the regression-adjusted measures are similar to those based solely on simple weighted estimates. In presenting the regression-adjusted estimates, we use the predicted rate of uninsurance in each quarter for the same nationally representative population. For this analysis, we base the nationally representative sample on survey respondents from the most recent 12-month period from the HRMS (i.e., quarter 1 of 2015 and quarters 2–4 of 2014). We focus on statistically significant changes in uninsurance over time (defined as differences that are significantly different from zero at the 5 percent level or lower) and highlight changes relative to September 2013, just before the open enrollment period for the Marketplaces began.
Limitations to the analysis: The HRMS is designed to provide early feedback on ACA implementation to complement the more robust assessments that will be possible as more federal survey data become available. Though HRMS estimates capture the changes in insurance coverage from the first open enrollment period under the ACA, the estimates understate the full effects of the ACA because the estimates do not reflect the effects of some important ACA provisions (such as the ability to keep dependents on health plans until age 26 and early state Medicaid expansions) that were implemented before 2013. In addition, these change estimates might not reflect only the effects of the ACA, because they do not control for long-term trends in health insurance coverage that predate the ACA nor do they control for changes in the business cycle. Further, the difference in coverage gains between the states that did and did not expand Medicaid should not be entirely attributed to the ACA; there were other policy choices that likely affected enrollment. For example, many of the nonexpansion states did not set up their own Marketplaces and therefore did not get the same access to outreach and enrollment assistance funding.
Karpman, Michael, Laura Skopec, and Sharon K. Long. 2015. “QuickTake: Uninsurance Rate Nearly Halved for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults since Mid-2013.” Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
Karpman, Michael, Stephen Zuckerman, Genevieve M. Kenney, and Yvette Odu. 2015. “QuickTake: Substantial Gains in Health Insurance Coverage Occurring for Adults in Both Rural and Urban Areas.” Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
Long, Sharon K., Michael Karpman, Genevieve M. Kenney, Stephen Zuckerman, Douglas Wissoker, Adele Shartzer, Nathaniel Anderson, and Katherine Hempstead. 2015. “Taking Stock: Health Insurance Coverage under the ACA as of March 2015.” Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
Shartzer, Adele, Genevieve M. Kenney, and Stephen Zuckerman. 2015. “QuickTake: Uninsurance Rate Halved for Adults with Chronic Conditions.” Washington, DC: Urban Institute.
About the Series
This QuickTake is part of a series drawing on the HRMS, a quarterly survey of the nonelderly population that explores the value of cutting-edge Internet-based survey methods to monitor the Affordable Care Act before data from federal government surveys are available. The QuickTakes provide information on health insurance coverage, access to and use of health care, health care affordability, and self-reported health status, as well as timely data on important implementation issues under the ACA. Funding for the core HRMS is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute.
For more information on the HRMS and for other QuickTakes in this series, visit www.urban.org/hrms.
2 The March 2015 uninsurance rates are also significantly lower that the rates at the end of the first open enrollment period in June 2014 for all of the demographic and socioeconomic subgroups examined except adults with family income of 400 percent of the federal poverty level or higher and adults in rural areas (data not shown).