An estimated 16.4 million more Americans have health insurance plans five years after passage of the Affordable Care Act in March 2010.

An estimated 16.4 million more Americans have health insurance plans five years after passage of the Affordable Care Act in March 2010.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell called it "the largest reduction in the uninsured in four decades."


"Because of the Affordable Care Act young adults are able to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, states can expand their Medicaid programs, and tax credits are available to millions of Americans in all 50 states, making health care coverage more affordable and accessible," Burwell said in a news release. "When it comes to the key metrics of affordability, access, and quality, the evidence shows that the Affordable Care Act is working, and families, businesses and taxpayers are better off as a result."


The report used Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and National Health Interview Survey data to show that 14.1 million adults gained health insurance coverage since the beginning of open enrollment in October 2013. Also, 2.3 million young adults gained health insurance coverage between 2010 and the start of open enrollment in October 2013 because of the ACA provision allowing young adults to remain on a parent’s plan until age 26.


Details on people who gained health insurance coverage included race and ethnicity, household income and state Medicaid expansion status, and young adults.


The uninsured rate dropped the most among Latinos — 12.3 percentage points by the first quarter of 2015 against a baseline uninsured rate of 41.8 percent. This resulted in 4.2 million Latino adults’ gaining coverage.


Among African Americans the uninsured rate declined by 9.2 percentage points against a baseline uninsured rate of 22.4 percent, resulting in 2.3 million adults’ gaining coverage.


With a baseline uninsured rate of 14.3 percent, the uninsured rate for whites declined 5.3 percent to result in 6.6 million adults’ gaining coverage.


Arkansas was counted in the survey as one of the 28 states and Washington, D.C., to have expanded its Medicaid program. Arkansas’ so-called "private option," which uses Medicaid money to subsidize insurance plans for those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, is set to be dissolved by the end of 2016 by Act 46 of 2015.


Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s 16-member Arkansas Health Reform Legislative Task Force was announced March 2 and includes state Sen. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, and state Rep. Justin Boy, R-Fort Smith.


Hospital and health care groups see health care insurance mandates as beneficial to the industry.


"When you couple the increase in people who have federal insurance plans, which is around 65,000 in Arkansas, with those with private option plans, you see a significant reduction in uncompensated payment," Arkansas Hospital Association Executive Vice President Paul Cunningham said in a phone interview Monday. "It’s very beneficial for hospitals."


Seth Blomeley, Communications and Policy Research Manager in the Arkansas Health Connector Division of the Arkansas Insurance Department, stated in an email that of those 65,684 Arkansans who purchased Marketplace plans, 88 percent received tax credits to make it more affordable.


"The average monthly premium, before tax credits, was $389. The average tax credit was $280, or 72 percent, the same as the national average. The average out-of-pocket monthly premium was $109 in Arkansas," Blomeley wrote.


Looking beyond the insurance plans, Cunningham said, is the absorption by Arkansas health care providers of nearly $2.5 billion over the next 10 years in Medicare cuts.


"It’s not necessarily a windfall but it’s a way to offset some of those losses," Cunningham said of the uninsured decreases.


Craig Wilson, director of Access to Quality Care for the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said that while the decrease in uninsured Arkansans is a "small plug in a big hole" due to the Medicare reductions, health care insurance "is critical for the survival of rural hospitals."


Small rural hospitals across the nation are merging with larger corporate hospitals to "keep their doors open," Wilson noted by phone.


Both Cunningham and Wilson said their organizations will be working with Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Health Reform Task Force to contribute ideas.