Questions for Robin Cohen, Ph.D., Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, January-March 2016”
Q: How have trends in health insurance coverage in the United States changed in the first quarter of 2016 compared to last year, and compared to 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was established?
RC: In the first 3 months of 2016, 27.3 million — or 8.6 percent of persons of all ages — were uninsured. This is 1.3 million fewer persons than in 2015 and 21.3 million fewer persons than in 2010. In 2015, the uninsured rate is in the single digits for the first time since the National Health Interview Survey began measuring health insurance in 1959.
Also, from January through March 2016, among adults aged 18 to 64, 11.9 percent were uninsured at the time of interview, 19.5 percent had public coverage, and 70.2 percent had private health insurance coverage. Among the 138.2 million adults in this age group with private coverage, 9.2 million or 4.7 percent were covered by private health insurance plans obtained through the Health Insurance Marketplace or state-based exchanges.
Q: What explains the drop in the uninsured rate during the first quarter of 2016, after the rate was essentially unchanged during the last three periods for 2015?
RC: The estimates for the previous three reports are based on an average over 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months of data for the November 2015, February 2016, and May 2016 reports respectively.
Q: How is health insurance coverage looking this year for our youngest population – children under 18 years of age?
RC: In the first quarter of 2016, 5 percent of children under 18 years of age were uninsured; 42.1 percent had public coverage, and 54.9 percent had private coverage. The percentage of children who were uninsured decreased from 13.9 percent in 1997 to 5 percent in the first 3 months of 2016.
Q: Where do high-deductible plans through private health insurance fit into 2016 estimates compared to earlier years?
RC: Forty percent of persons under age 65 with private health insurance were enrolled in a high-deductible health plan in the first 3 months of 2016. The percentage who were enrolled in a high deductible health plan increased almost 15 percentage points from 25.3 percent in 2010 to 40 percent in 2016’s first quarter. More recently, the percentage enrolled in a high-deductible plan increased from 36.7 percent in 2015 to 40 percent in 2016.
Q: What are the trends among race and ethnicity groups in health insurance coverage this year and compared over time?
RC: In the first 3 months of 2016, 24.5 percent of Hispanic, 13 percent of non-Hispanic black, 8.4 percent of non-Hispanic white, and 6.7 percent of non-Hispanic Asian adults aged 18 to 64 lacked health insurance coverage. There were significant decreases in the percentage of uninsured adults observed between 2015 and the first 3 months of 2016 among these four race and ethnicity groups. Hispanic adults had the greatest percentage point decrease of 16.1 percentage points in the uninsured rate between 2013 and the first 3 months of 2016.