Access to Health Care Unchanged after Obamacare’s First Year

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released early estimates of health insurance and access to health care for January through September 2014. The National Health Insurance Survey (NHIS) is the most effective survey of health insurance, because it asks people three different but important questions: Are they uninsured at the time of the survey? Have they been uninsured for at least part of the year? Have they been uninsured for more than a year?

The proportion of long-term uninsured is about the same as it was circa 2000—about 12 percent of adults aged 18 to 64. The proportion of short-term uninsured has shrunk a little in Obamacare’s first year.

However, this masks a dramatic increase in government dependency among working-age adults, which was not primarily due to Obamacare.

In 1997, 72.8 percent of those aged 18 to 64 years had private health insurance. In 2010, this bottomed out at 64.1 percent. It is now 67 percent. And that may be an over estimate, because it includes people who have bought subsidized health plans on Obamacare exchanges. Coverage bought on an Obamacare exchange is not fully private, because most of the premiums are paid by taxpayers. It would be more informative if the NHIS more clearly separated exchange coverage from private coverage.

Further, this increase in government dependency has not led to increased access to health care. The proportion of people of all ages with a “usual place to go for medical care” was 87.8 percent last year, the same portion as in 2002-2003. Further, 5.7 percent reported that they failed to obtain needed medical care due to cost last year, the same share as in 2003-2004.

These results confirm that the effects of the 2008 financial crisis and recession, and slow recovery, far outweigh Obamacare’s effect on access to health care.

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For the pivotal alternative to Obamacare, please see the Independent Institute’s widely acclaimed book: Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman.

John R. Graham is a former Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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