Back to Basics: A Reminder of What the ACA is all About

As Congress launches oversight hearings and the media report new technical problems with on an almost daily basis, it can be hard to remember what the Affordable Care Act is all about. But, as the White House said the other day, the ACA is not a website, and a new poll out from Gallup brings that fact home in a powerful way.

According to the poll, more adults were uninsured in this country on the eve of the October 1 launch of the ACA’s insurance exchanges than during any other quarter in the last six years, when Gallup first started tracking the number of uninsured. A full 18% of adults reported that they did not have coverage during the quarter from June to September. According to Gallup, the uninsured rate has been increasing throughout 2013, with the most significant increases among 26 to 64 year olds.

For young adults, Gallup found that a quarter of them reported being uninsured, the highest rate in two years. However, for a subgroup of young adults between 18-25, things have actually improved since 2010, thanks to the ACA’s provision allowing young people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ plans.

The good news is that, beginning January 1, 2014, the numbers of uninsured age 26 and above will start to drop, thanks to the ACA’s market reforms, the Medicaid expansion, and the tax credits to make health insurance premiums more affordable. Massachusetts, which implemented its version of health reform (upon which the ACA was modeled) in 2006, now has the lowest uninsured rate in the country (3.9%), with 439,000 more Massachusetts residents covered than before reform. Nationally, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the ACA will reduce the number of uninsured by 14 million by the end of 2014 and by 29-30 million by 2019.

While the website for the health insurance marketplace has had a rocky launch, we’re only a few weeks into a 6-month enrollment period. When there’s such a long road ahead of us, it’s useful to remember why we’re doing this in the first place.

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