Obamacare Has Halted the Expansion of the Gap Between the Haves and Have-Nots in Health Insurance

Gallup has recently reported that the number of uninsured Americans has reached historic lows with the implementation of Obamacare. The administration’s most recent report shows that an additional 20 million people have gained coverage. The New York Times used 2014 census data to examine the newly insured from that year by race, education, occupation, immigration status, and family structure.

The analysis shows how the law lifted some of the most vulnerable citizens. Part-time workers gained insurance at a higher rate than full-time workers, and people with high school degrees gained it at double the rate of college graduates. Adults living in households headed by relatives, such as siblings or cousins — often a marker of economic distress — gained insurance at double the rate of those in traditional households…

In all, minorities gained more than whites, making up two-thirds of the increase in insured adults across the country, and 70 percent of the increase in private insurance. Minority men who work as groundskeepers and janitors saw substantial gains, rising to 59 percent insured, up from 51 percent in 2013. Hispanic male construction workers rose to 43 percent insured, from 36 percent in 2013.

Those numbers would have been even more dramatic if not for two issues: (1) undocumented immigrants are excluded from participation (leaving the number of Hispanic who are insured at 67%) and (2) about 60% of African Americans live in states that did not expand Medicaid.

This means that in order for Obamacare to ensure universal coverage, several things need to be addressed:

1. Medicaid expansion in all 50 states

2. Either pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, or allow undocumented people to participate in Obamacare

3. Make plans more affordable for those who do not qualify for Medicaid, including the problem with high deductibles

Those are the next steps that need to be taken. But it is important to note the big change that is already underway.

…the Times’s analysis shows that by the end of that first full year, 2014, so many low-income people gained coverage that it halted the decades-long expansion of the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the American health insurance system, a striking change at a time when disparities between rich and poor are growing in many areas.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.