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Does the Affordable Care Act Cover the Uninsured?

This was published as a Wall Street Journal Think Tank column on June 19, 2014.

 

One of the big criticisms of the Affordable Care Act has been that very few people covered in the new insurance marketplaces were previously uninsured. It’s an important criticism, as expanding insurance coverage was a bedrock goal of the law. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the number of uninsured will be reduced by about 26 million by 2017, cutting in half the number of uninsured in this country.

 

A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey out Thursday gives us real data on this question. Among the facts: 57% of those who bought coverage from the new marketplaces during the first ACA open-enrollment period were previously uninsured, and seven out of 10 of them had been uninsured for two years or more.

 

The number of uninsured people covered through the exchanges is far higher than critics of the ACA have suggested. On the other hand, the number is probably a little lower than supporters of the health-care law would like. As is typical in the highly polarized debate about the ACA, the facts are not what either side would want them to be.

 

The Affordable Care Act is making a dent in the ranks of the uninsured, but the second open-enrollment season under the ACA, beginning this fall, should provide a fuller picture of the extent of the law’s impact and how the reformed non-group insurance market is shaking out.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.