WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s health care law has reduced the number of uninsured adults by between 8 million and 11 million in its first year, according to three new studies, and the vast majority of enrollees report satisfaction with their new health plans.
The studies, conducted separately by the Commonwealth Fund, the Urban Institute and the Gallup organization, used different methods to estimate the impact the Affordable Care Act has had.
Each came to a similar conclusion: About 1 in 4 people who were uninsured when the law took full effect last fall now have received coverage, representing a significant first step toward the law’s goal of near-universal coverage.
The largest gains in the rate of insured have taken place among adults younger than 35, according to the Commonwealth Fund and Gallup data.
The Commonwealth Fund study, based on a survey of nearly 4,500 adults, also includes extensive data about consumer reactions to the new health plans.
The study found that more than three-quarters of those who had either enrolled in Medicaid or bought a private insurance plan in one of the new marketplaces created by the law reported that they were either “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their new coverage.
About 6 in 10 said they had visited a doctor or hospital or filled a prescription using their new coverage. Nearly two-thirds of those people said they would not have been able to do that previously.
Although people who identified themselves as Democrats reported somewhat higher levels of satisfaction, roughly 3 out of 4 Republicans said they were satisfied with their new health plans.
The figures from all three studies fall roughly in line with projections by the Congressional Budget Office regarding the law’s first year. Based on the experience of previous government programs, the budget office projected that enrollment would continue to grow.
But the new studies point to some significant hurdles the Obama administration will face in trying to achieve that goal.
Most notably, the biggest improvements in insurance coverage have taken place in the 25 states and the District of Columbia that have expanded their Medicaid programs.
That means the remaining uninsured Americans increasingly are concentrated in states that have declined to expand Medicaid – primarily Southern and Midwestern states with Republican-controlled governments that have been hostile to the new law and, in many cases, have tried to impede its implementation. That political resistance could be a major factor in holding down enrollments in the next couple of years.