Questions for Robin Cohen, Ph.D., Health Statistician and Lead Author on “Health Insurance Coverage: Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January-March 2017”
Q: What do you think is the most interesting demographic finding among your new study’s short-term trends – age, poverty status, or race and ethnicity?
RC: There are many interesting short-term trends presented in this report, though I would like to highlight the three that I find most interesting. Among poor adults aged 18 to 64, the percentage who were uninsured decreased from 42.2% in 2010 to 22.6% in the first 3 months of 2017. A similar decrease in the percentage of uninsured was seen for near poor adults aged 18 to 64, from 43.0% in 2010 to 23.0% in the first 3 months of 2017. Hispanic adults aged 18 to 64 had the greatest percentage point decrease in the uninsured rate from 2013 (40.6%) through the first 3 months of 2017 (24.1%).
Q: What is the most compelling long-term trend in your new health insurance report?
RC: It is quite striking and encouraging to see long-term improvements in health insurance coverage for children in the United States. The percentage of children who were uninsured generally decreased from 13.9% in 1997 to 5.3% in the first 3 months of 2017. The observed increase in the percentage of uninsured children from 4.5% in 2015 to 5.3% in the first 3 months of 2017 was not statistically significant. From 1997 to 2012, the percentage of children with private coverage has generally decreased, and the percentage of children with public coverage has generally increased. However, more recently, the percentage of children with public or private coverage has leveled off.
Q: Why aren’t state estimates presented?
RC: State level estimates of insurance coverage are not presented in the Early Release report based on the first 3 months of data from the National Health Interview Survey due to considerations of sample size and precision. However, state level estimates are included in the Health Insurance Early Release report three times a year, with the report based on 6 months of data, 9 months of data and a full year of data.
Q: It looks as though coverage through high-deductible private health insurance plans continues to rise in 2017; what patterns do your estimates show this year compared to previous years?
RC: In the first 3 months of 2017, 42.3% of persons under age 65 with private health insurance coverage were enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), an increase from 39.4% in 2016. The percentage of persons enrolled in an HDHP increased 17 percentage points from 25.3% in 2010 to 42.3% in the first 3 months of 2017.
Q: What is the take home message from this report?
RC: I think the real take-home message from this report is the long-term trend of remarkable improvement in the number of uninsured Americans. In the first 3 months of 2017, 28.1 (8.8%) million persons of all ages were uninsured at the time of interview —20.5 million fewer persons than in 2010 (16.0%). However, there was no significant change from the 2016 uninsured rate of 9.0% (28.6 million).