Uninsured rate hits historic low, CDC says

27.3 million U.S. residents lacked health coverage during the first three months of 2016

The U.S. uninsured rate hit a historic low of 8.6 percent during the first three months of 2016, according to CDC data released Wednesday.

By comparison, about 14.4 percent of U.S. residents were uninsured in 2013, according to CDC.

New data

According to the new data, which are based on 24,317 U.S. residents' responses to CDC's National Health Interview Survey, about 27.3 million U.S. residents lacked health coverage when the survey was conducted between January and March. By comparison, about 28.6 million Americans lacked health coverage throughout all of 2015, according to previous CDC data.

Who's still uninsured under the ACA?

Overall, the new data show that 11.9 percent of respondents ages 18 to 64 were uninsured during the first three months of 2016, while 70.2 percent were enrolled in private health plans and 19.5 percent were enrolled in public health coverage. Among respondents ages 0 to 17, 5 percent were uninsured, 54.9 percent were enrolled in private health plans, and 42.1 percent were enrolled in public coverage.

The data show younger U.S. residents were nearly twice as likely to lack health coverage as older U.S. residents. According to the data, about 15.9 percent of respondents ages 25 to 34 were uninsured during the first three months of 2016, compared with 8.1 percent of respondents ages 45 to 64.

The data also show Hispanic U.S. residents ages 18 to 64 were more likely to lack coverage than adults of other races and ethnicities. According to the data, 24.5 percent of Hispanic adult respondents were uninsured during the survey period, compared with 13 percent of black adult respondents, 8.4 percent of white adult respondents, and 6.7 percent of Asian adult respondents.

Further, the data show an increase in the number of U.S. residents enrolled in high-deductible health plans. The survey defined high-deductible health plans as those that have minimum deductibles of $1,300 annually of individual coverage and $2,600 annually for family coverage. According to the data, about 40 percent of respondents younger than 65 said they were enrolled in such plans during the study period, up from about 25.3 percent who were enrolled in such plans in 2010.

Burwell touts progress, while others cite a slowdown in reducing the U.S. uninsured rate

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell touted the findings, saying, "Our country's march toward improving access, quality, and affordability in health care goes on, and today's numbers show that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is continuing to drive historic progress."

However, some experts said the data show a slowdown in reducing the U.S. uninsured rate.

Larry Levitt, SVP for special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "The pace at which people are getting newly insured has noticeably slowed," adding, "The share of the population without health insurance is lower than it's ever been ... but further gains are getting harder and harder to achieve."

For instance, new data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index show the U.S. uninsured rate among U.S. adults declined by just 1 percentage point from the end of 2015 through July. The data estimated the uninsured rate among U.S. adults as of July to be around 10.8 percent.

Dan Witters, who directs the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey, compared coverage gains to "box office results for a movie." He said, "It has a big opening weekend and then it slows down over time."

Paul Hughes-Cromwick, co-director of Altarum's Center for Sustainable Health Spending, said, "Multiple initiatives are needed to have a major impact on further reducing the uninsured population."

For example, Katherine Hempstead, a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said progress still needs to be made on reducing the uninsured rate among low-income adults, noting that "25 percent of this population" remains uninsured (Sullivan, The Hill, 9/7; Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Washington Times, 9/7; National Health Interview Survey, September 2016; Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 9/7; AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/6)

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