Nearly 17M gain health insurance coverage, thanks to ACA

Nearly 17 million people gained health insurance coverage between September 2013 and February 2015, according to a longitudinal survey. The increase coincides with the federal government mandate that most people are required to have insurance.

Researchers Katherine G. Carman, Christine Eibner and Susan M. Paddock of RAND Corp. published their findings in the May issue of Health Affairs.

As of February 2015, they found that 11.2 million people had enrolled in the health insurance marketplaces run by states or the federal government, in which people can shop online and compare health plans. They also wrote that 9.6 million people were new Medicaid enrollees at that time.

The marketplaces were created as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to provide coverage for people who previously could not afford insurance or were denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions or other reasons.

In this analysis, the researchers focused on a nationally representative sample of 1,589 adults between 18 and 64 years old who responded to surveys between September 2013 and February 2015. During the time period, researchers sent the participants 12 surveys. They chose to start in September 2013 because the first open enrollment for the marketplaces began in October 2013.

From November 2013 through May 2014, the number of participants with health insurance increased consistently, according to the researchers. They estimated that of the 42.7 million who were uninsured in 2013, 22.8 million gained insurance and 19.9 mil- lion remained uninsured in 2014.

Researchers said there was a net increase of 16.9 million people with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to February 2015. They estimated 22.8 million people gained coverage during that time period and 5.9 million people lost coverage. Of the 22.8 million people, most enrolled in employer-sponsored plans, followed by Medicaid and the health insurance marketplaces.

Carman et al also noted that the majority of people who had individual insurance in 2013 continued to have coverage in 2015.

Potential limitations of the analysis included the low (9 percent) response rate to the surveys and that some people may have incorrectly entered the type of coverage they had. The researchers mentioned that people sometimes have difficulty knowing if they are enrolled in Medicaid, the health insurance marketplaces or non-group group coverage.