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Uninsured rate hits single-digit milestone

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The percentage of adults without health insurance coverage has tumbled by more than 40% in the last three years due to the health care reform law, according to a survey released Wednesday.

During the first quarter of this year, 9.9% of adults — individuals ages 18 through 64 — were uninsured, down dramatically from last quarter of 2013, when 17.6% of adults were uninsured, according to the survey funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute.

“A single-digit uninsurance rate is a great achievement,” Kathy Hempstead, senior adviser for health care in Princeton, New Jersey, for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a statement. “Significant progress has been made toward meeting the ACA's most fundamental objective.”

That big decrease in the uninsured rate coincides with the Jan. 1, 2014, effective date of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act that provide federal premium subsidies to the lower-income uninsured obtaining coverage in public health insurance exchanges and give states the authority — with rich federal subsidies — to ease eligibility requirements for their Medicaid programs.

In states that expanded Medicaid — opening up the programs to those earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level compared with the prior 100% federal poverty level ceiling — the uninsured rate fell to 7.3% in the first quarter of 2016, a huge decrease compared with the 14.9% uninsured rate in those states during the last quarter of 2013.

By contrast, the uninsured rate in states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs, was nearly twice as high—14.1% — in the first quarter of 2016 compared with the expansion states.

“The results indicate sustained progress under the ACA in reducing the share of uninsured nonelderly adults,” the survey said.