Healthy Choices

Affordable Care Act a boon to previously uninsured, survey says

Despite political hurdles, the Affordable Care Act may be coming through on its promise to provide health coverage to uninsured Californians, suggested a study released Thursday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

The data, collected from a sample of 1,105 California adults who previously lacked insurance, showed that 68 percent of the group had attained health coverage after the ACA’s second enrollment period, which ended in February. About 70 percent of those remaining uninsured after the second enrollment period are Hispanic.

Medi-Cal was the biggest draw for the previously uninsured, with 34 percent of adults enrolling in that program compared to 14 percent covered by an employer and 12 percent in Covered California, the state’s program under the ACA.

The study found receiving coverage improved health care affordability. Only 49 percent of the recently insured reported difficulty affording health care in the most recent study, as compared to 86 percent in 2013. Additionally, 86 percent said their health needs are being somewhat or very well met, up from 51 percent in 2013.

“Insurance is now close to the norm among those previously uninsured Californians, for those who are actually eligible,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the foundation. “The ACA has created a new norm, where there’s an expectation that you will be covered, though there are particular challenges in the Hispanic community.”

It was the third in a series of ACA studies produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s California Longitudinal Panel Survey since 2013. The foundation conducted the first study in summer 2013 prior to the ACA’s first enrollment period and involved only participants who were not insured. The second study revisited that group after open enrollment, and found that 58 percent had acquired coverage.

Hispanic residents have historically been among the most difficult to enroll, either because of eligibility or other reasons such as cultural barriers or difficulty with applications. About 41 percent of Hispanic survey participants who remained uninsured were undocumented, while 29 percent were eligible but still not covered.

Another hard-to-reach group includes residents who are eligible for insurance but are resistant to coverage or otherwise difficult to reach, said Mollyann Brodie, senior vice president and executive director for public opinion and survey research at the foundation. That group makes up 43 percent of those remaining uninsured in 2015.

People who are covered as a result of the Affordable Care Act may be experiencing an improvement in their overall finances, the report suggests.

When asked to rank financial concerns, those remaining uninsured placed health care at the top, while those who gained insurance reported rent, utilities and gasoline as being more pertinent problems.

“This clearly illustrates the financial and economic security that having insurance brings to people, and that we’ve been able to document in Californians,” Brodie said. “The big takeaways here are that for people who didn’t have insurance previously to the ACA, it has been successful.”

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola