CPS-ASEC health insurance coverage estimates for 2012 continue a two-year reversal of a decade-long increase in the number of uninsured Americans. There were significant declines in uninsurance rates overall and among subgroups such as children, Latinos, and nonworkers. Uninsurance rates did not get significantly worse for any of the subgroups discussed in this brief or in the longer Census Bureau report on which it is based.
Yet in 2012, as in 2011—and in all previous years for which the CPS-ASEC has collected data on health insurance coverage—substantial proportions of Americans in all categories except the elderly were uninsured. The upcoming expansion of Medicaid (in participating states) and the establishment of the Health Insurance Marketplace (in all states) under the Affordable Care Act will give millions of Americans affordable options for coverage they did not have before.
One very important component of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion, the extension of dependent coverage to 19-25-year-olds, has already been in effect for several years. The new CPS-ASEC data for this age group, compared with data from earlier years, provide fresh evidence that this policy has had the desired impact of increasing health insurance coverage.
Sources of coverage among the insured were fairly stable in 2012. Most Americans continue to have employer-sponsored insurance, and the long period of decline in this source of coverage appears to have leveled off. The only statistically significant change in the sources of insurance coverage, the increase in the number of people with Medicare, reflects the demographic shift that we have long known to be coming rather than recent public policy. As two million or so individuals move into Medicare each year, however, the number of people who benefit from the Affordable Care Act’s improvements in Medicare’s prescription drug coverage (closing the Part D “donut hole”) and preventive services (expanding the types of care available with no cost-sharing) will grow accordingly.