Census data suggests health reform is working

The new Census data offer promise that health reform may be working.

Andrew Cannon photo
Andrew Cannon

Despite disappointing increases in poverty and decreases in median income, new data released by the Census Bureau carried a glimmer of good news.

While the ranks of those lacking health insurance increased in almost every other demographic group, even seniors eligible for Medicare — the number and rate of uninsured young adults (aged 19-25) actually decreased (see Table 8 of this Census Report).

And even more startling: The decrease in the uninsured rate of uninsurance for young adults (1.6 percentage points) was larger than the percentage-point increases in uninsured rates among other adult cohorts.

What was the driving force in reducing uninsured rates among young adults?

Census data provide only a snapshot, and do not offer a definitive explanation.

However, there was one large policy change at the beginning of 2010 that might just help explain this change.

While young adults make up a small share of the overall population, they typically comprise a disproportionate share of the uninsured population. Health reform  — signed into law March 2010, sought to change that. The health reform law, or the Affordable Care Act, contained a provision allowing young adults through age 25 to remain on a parent’s health insurance plan if they did not receive an insurance offer through their employment.

Caution is warranted in ascribing a cause to the change in the uninsured rate among young adults. Nevertheless, reports seem to back up the notion that the change is at least partially due to health reform’s policy changes.

In other words, the new data offer promise that health reform may be working.

By Andrew Cannon, Research Associate

Author: iowapolicypoints

The Iowa Policy Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides research and analysis to engage Iowans in state policy decisions. We focus on tax and busget issues, the Iowa economy, and energy and environmental policy. By providing a foundation of fact-based, objective research and engaging the public in an informed discussion of policy alternatives, IPP advances effective, accountable and fair government.

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