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Number of uninsured Americans holds at record low, challenges remain

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Kevin Ruggeberg
Health insurance underwriting takes some special considerations.
Health insurance underwriting takes some special considerations.

Over the past few years, the number of people able to obtain health insurance - often for the first time - due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has skyrocketed. At this point, so many people have gotten coverage either through the ACA's exchanges or expanded Medicaid coverage that the rate of uninsurance in the U.S. is now at an all-time low.

This data shows that only about 10.9 percent of Americans went without health insurance through the end of the third quarter, unchanged from the previous quarter, which marked the lowest level observed since the tracking began in 2008, according to Gallup. That's down from 17.1 percent since the mandate for consumers to be covered went into effect a few years ago, as well as the all-time high in the poll of 18.0 percent, seen in 2013, just before open enrollment began for the first time.

Federal lawmakers may soon make huge health insurance changes.Federal lawmakers may soon make huge health insurance changes.

Demographic breakdowns
The groups of people most positively impacted by the drops in the uninsurance rate over the past three years were Hispanics (down from 38.7 percent uninsured to 27.4 percent), young adults aged 26 to 34 (down from 28.2 percent to 18.9 percent), and those making less than $36,000 per year (from 30.7 percent to 20.8 percent), the report said. Meanwhile, only one age group saw its uninsurance rate go up during that time, with those 65 or older seeing a slight uptick from 2 percent to 2.3 percent.

What comes next?
Meanwhile, though, it's worth noting that Republican efforts to repeal and replace the ACA are well underway in the nation's capital, even before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, according to The Washington Post. And while no concrete details for what that replacement will be have been unveiled, Trump revealed that the goal will be to get even more people covered, at a lower cost.

"We're going to have insurance for everybody," Trump told the newspaper, who further noted he doesn't want the system to resemble single-payer systems like those in Canada and other major countries. "There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can't pay for it, you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us."

There are also changes to the healthcare market playing out at the state level, according to a report from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. The Minnesota legislature is currently struggling to decide how to properly distribute rebate checks to residents to help them contend with rising premiums. In states like Minnesota, which aggressively pursued ACA participation by running their own exchanges, the loss of federal funding for those marketplaces could add to current problems surrounding rapidly increasing healthcare costs.

These are issues those in the health insurance industry and beyond will have to watch closely in the weeks and months to come, so that they can better advise policyholders about their best courses of action in the event their coverage changes when or if the ACA is fully repealed.



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