The U.S. federal government has revealed that millions of Americans were provided health insurance as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last year.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted its National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) in 2014, around 36 million people or 11.5 percent of the population were found to be uninsured at the time of the interview.
The latest NHIS findings showed a decline in the uninsured by 8.8 million people, which is 2.9 percentage points lower, compared with figures collected from the previous year.
While the Affordable Care Act is still an unpopular policy – especially among Republican members of Congress – the NHIS data shows that the ACA is effective in its primary goal of helping people get health insurance.
The findings of the study are consistent with the results of other surveys conducted last year. This includes the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey, which showed that the decline of uninsured rate continued through 2015.
The NHIS report also revealed a sharp decline in the share of uninsured African-Americans, which fell to 13.5 percent from 18.9 percent recorded in 2013. This was the largest recorded annual change for any ethnic or racial group in the U.S. since the start of the survey in 1997.
Aside from its benefits to African-Americans under the age of 65 years old, the Affordable Care Act has also provided advantages to Hispanics who belong to the same age bracket. The share of uninsured Americans among Hispanics dropped by close to 17 percent from 2013 to 25.2 percent.
Director Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation's Program for the Study of Health Reform and Private Insurance pointed out that the Affordable Care Act has had a more pronounced benefit for African-Americans, compared with white Americans.
He said that this was because African-Americans were more likely to be poor, and that the ACA itself was specifically designed to provide health insurance to poor people.
Levitt added that if every state in the country decides to expand Medicaid, the ACA would have had a larger effect.
A majority of the states that chose not to expand Medicaid were found to have the highest number of uninsured Americans. They also had some of the largest populations of poor African-Americans in the United States.
People who are eligible to receive subsidies for private insurance must belong to low-income and middle-income families that are above the poverty level. This means that those who are below the poverty level did not receive coverage, as seen in many of the states that did not expand Medicaid.
The share of uninsured Americans among the poor dropped by seven percentage points, while the share of the lower middle class, regarded as the "near poor" by the federal government, fell by 7.6 percentage points. The share of Americans who were not poor, on the other hand, had declined by 2.5 percentage points. This measurement was for people between the ages of 18 to 64 years old.
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