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Achieving Racial and Ethnic Equity in U.S. Health Care: A Scorecard of State Performance

November 17, 2021

In this report, we evaluate health equity across race and ethnicity, both within and between states, to illuminate how state health systems perform for Black, white, Latinx/Hispanic, AIAN, and Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) populations. Our hope is that policymakers and health system leaders will use this tool to investigate the impact of past policies on health across racial and ethnic groups, and that they will begin to take steps to ensure an equitable, antiracist health care system for the future.

As the Pandemic Eases, What Is the State of Health Care Coverage and Affordability in the U.S.? Findings from the Commonwealth Fund Health Care Coverage and COVID-19 Survey, March–June 2021

July 16, 2021

To shore up an economy and health system battered during the COVID-19-induced recession, the U.S. Congress passed four major relief bills in 2020 and 2021. The Biden administration also made a number of administrative changes, including some aimed at helping people enroll in health insurance coverage.After a year of severe job market disruption combined with a massive federal pandemic relief effort, what is the state of health care coverage and affordability in the United States?To answer these and related questions, the survey research firm SSRS interviewed a random, nationally representative sample of 5,450 adults ages 19 to 64 from March 9 through June 8, 2021. This brief reports on the survey's findings about current uninsured rates, pandemic-related coverage loss, and Americans' ongoing struggles to pay their medical bills.

Racial and Ethnic Inequities in Health Care Coverage and Access, 2013–2019

June 9, 2021

In this brief, we update our 2020 report on coverage and access inequities using 2013–2019 data from the American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS PUMS) and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). We examine trends in Black and Latinx/Hispanic disparities across the following measures, with a particular focus on the effects of Medicaid expansion on equity at the state level:adults ages 19 to 64 who are uninsuredadults ages 18 to 64 who went without care in the past 12 months because of costadults ages 18 to 64 who report having a usual health care provider.

Inequities in Health and Health Care in Black and Latinx/Hispanic Communities: 23 Charts

June 3, 2021

COVID-19 has devastated Black and Latinx/Hispanic communities in the United States during the past year, erasing recent life expectancy gains and reinforcing racism as a potent, structural driver of health and human inequity.The health disparities contributing to this burden are long-standing. They reach well beyond the pandemic and have left many communities of color with historically worse outcomes. This chartbook details inequities between white, Black, and Latinx/Hispanic communities across a range of health indicators in four main areas:insurance coverage and access to carereceipt of health serviceshealth statusmortality.

Americans' Views on Health Insurance at the End of a Turbulent Year

March 1, 2018

The Affordable Care Act's 2018 open enrollment period came at the end of a turbulent year in health care. The Trump administration took several steps to weaken the ACA's insurance marketplaces. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans engaged in a nine-month effort to repeal and replace the law's coverage expansions and roll back Medicaid. Nevertheless, 11.8 million people had selected plans through the marketplaces by the end of January, about 3.7 percent fewer than the prior year. There was an overall increase in enrollment this year in states that run their own marketplaces and a decrease in those states that rely on the federal marketplace.To gauge the perspectives of Americans on the marketplaces, Medicaid, and other health insurance issues, the Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey interviewed a random, nationally representative sample of 2,410 adults ages 19 to 64 between November 2 and December 27, 2017, including 541 people who have marketplace or Medicaid coverage.The findings are compared to prior ACA tracking surveys, the most recent of which was fielded between March and June 2017. The survey research firm SSRS conducted the survey, which has an overall margin of error is +/– 2.7 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Following the ACA Repeal-and-Replace Effort, Where Does the U.S. Stand on Insurance Coverage? Findings from the Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey, March–June 2017

September 7, 2017

Issue: After Congress's failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, some policy leaders are calling for bipartisan approaches to address weaknesses in the law's coverage expansions. To do this, policymakers will need data about trends in insurance coverage, reasons why people remain uninsured, and consumer perceptions of affordability.Goal: To examine U.S. trends in insurance coverage and the demographics of the remaining uninsured population, as well as affordability and satisfaction among adults with marketplace and Medicaid coverage.Methods: Analysis of the Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey, March–June 2017.Findings and Conclusions: The uninsured rate among 19-to-64-year-old adults was 14 percent in 2017, or an estimated 27 million people, statistically unchanged from one year earlier. Uninsured rates ticked up significantly in three subgroups: 35-to-49-year-olds, adults with incomes of 400 percent of poverty or more (about $48,000 for an individual), and adults living in states that had not expanded Medicaid. Half of uninsured adults, or an estimated 13 million, are likely eligible for marketplace subsidies or the Medicaid expansion in their state. Four of 10 uninsured adults are unaware of the marketplaces. Adults in marketplace plans with incomes below 250 percent of poverty are much more likely to view their premiums as easy to afford compared with people with higher incomes. Policies to improve coverage include a federal commitment to supporting the marketplaces and the 2018 open enrollment period, expansion of Medicaid in 19 remaining states, and enhanced subsidies for people with incomes of 250 percent of poverty or more.

How the Affordable Care Act Has Helped Women Gain Insurance and Improved Their Ability to Get Health Care

August 10, 2017

Issue: Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), one-third of women who tried to buy a health plan on their own were either turned down, charged a higher premium because of their health, or had specific health problems excluded from their plans. Beginning in 2010, ACA consumer protections, particularly coverage for preventive care screenings with no cost-sharing and a ban on plan benefit limits, improved the quality of health insurance for women. In 2014, the law's major insurance reforms helped millions of women who did not have employer insurance to gain coverage through the ACA's marketplaces or through Medicaid.Goals: To examine the effects of ACA health reforms on women's coverage and access to care.Method: Analysis of the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Surveys, 2001–2016.Findings and Conclusions: Women ages 19 to 64 who shopped for new coverage on their own found it significantly easier to find affordable plans in 2016 compared to 2010. The percentage of women who reported delaying or skipping needed care because of costs fell to an all-time low. Insured women were more likely than uninsured women to receive preventive screenings, including Pap tests and mammograms.

How Medicaid Enrollees Fare Compared with Privately Insured and Uninsured Adults: Findings from the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2016

April 27, 2017

Issue: The number of Americans insured by Medicaid has climbed to more than 70 million, with an estimated 12 million gaining coverage under the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion. Still, some policymakers have questioned whether Medicaid coverage actually improves access to care, quality of care, or financial protection. Goals: To compare the experiences of working-age adults who were either: covered all year by private employer or individual insurance; covered by Medicaid for the full year; or uninsured for some time during the year. Method: Analysis of the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2016. Findings and Conclusions: The level of access to health care that Medicaid coverage provides is comparable to that afforded by private insurance. Adults with Medicaid coverage reported better care experiences than those who had been uninsured during the year. Medicaid enrollees have fewer problems paying medical bills than either the privately insured or the uninsured.

How the Affordable Care Act Has Improved Americans' Ability to Buy Health Insurance on Their Own: Findings from the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2016

February 2, 2017

Issue: Since 2001, long before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey has examined health coverage and consumers' experiences buying insurance and using health care. Goals: To examine long-term trends and to make comparisons before and after passage of health reform. Methods: Analysis of the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2016. Findings and Conclusions: There have been dramatic improvements in people's ability to buy health plans on their own following the passage of the ACA. For adults with family incomes less than $48,500, uninsured rates dropped about 17 percentage points below their 2010 peak. Lower-income whites, blacks, and Latinos have experienced drops this large, though Latinos are uninsured at higher rates. Among working-age adults who had shopped for plans in the individual market and ACA marketplaces over the prior three years, the percentage who reported it was very difficult to find affordable plans fell by nearly half from 2010, prior to the ACA reforms, to 2016. Coverage gains are helping working-age Americans get the care they need: the number of adults who reported problems getting needed health care and filling prescriptions because of costs fell from a high of 80 million in 2012 to an estimated 63 million in 2016.

A Long Way in a Short Time: States' Progress on Health Care Coverage and Access, 2013-2015

December 19, 2016

Issue: The Affordable Care Actís policy reforms sought to expand health insurance coverage and make health care more affordable. As the nation prepares for policy changes under a new administration, we assess recent gains and challenges.Goal: To compare access to affordable health care across the U.S. between 2013 and 2015. Methods: Analysis of most recent publicly available data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.Key findings and conclusions: Between 2013 and 2015, uninsured rates for adults ages 19 to 64 declined in all states and by at least 3 percentage points in 48 states and the District of Columbia. For children, uninsured rates declined by at least 2 percentage points in 28 states. The share of adults age 18 and older who reported forgoing a visit to the doctor when needed because of costs dropped by at least 2 percentage points in 38 states and D.C. In contrast, there was little progress in expanding access to dental care for adults, which is not a required benefit under the ACA. These findings illustrate the impact that policy can have on access to care and offer a focal point for assessing future policy changes.

The Slowdown in Employer Insurance Cost Growth: Why Many Workers Still Feel the Pinch

October 26, 2016

Although predictions that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would lead to reductions in employer-sponsored health coverage have not been realized, some of the law's critics maintain the ACA is nevertheless driving higher premium and deductible costs for businesses and their workers.Goal: To compare cost growth in employer-sponsored health insurance before and after 2010, when the ACA was enacted, and to compare changes in these costs relative to changes in workers' incomes.Methods: The authors analyzed federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data to compare cost trends over the 10-year period from 2006 to 2015.Key findings and conclusions: Compared to the five years leading up to the ACA, premium growth for single health insurance policies offered by employers slowed both in the nation overall and in 33 states and the District of Columbia. There has been a similar slowdown in growth in the amounts employees contribute to health plan costs. Yet many families feel pinched by their health care costs: despite a recent surge, income growth has not kept pace in many areas of the U.S. Employee contributions to premiums and deductibles amounted to 10.1 percent of U.S. median income in 2015, compared to 6.5 percent in 2006. These costs are higher relative to income in many southeastern and southern states, where incomes are below the national average.

Who Are the Remaining Uninsured and Why Haven't They Signed Up for Coverage? Findings from the Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey, February–April 2016

August 18, 2016

The number of uninsured people in the United States has declined by an estimated 20 million since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2010. Yet, an estimated 24 million people still lack health insurance. Goal: To examine the characteristics of the remaining uninsured adults and their reasons for not enrolling in marketplace plans or Medicaid. Methods: Analysis of the Commonwealth Fund ACA Tracking Survey, February–April 2016. Key findings and conclusions: There have been notable shifts in the demographic composition of the uninsured since the law's major coverage expansions went into effect in 2014. Latinos have become a growing share of the uninsured, rising from 29 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2016. Whites have become a declining share, falling from half the uninsured in 2013 to 41 percent in 2016. The uninsured are very poor: 39 percent of uninsured adults have incomes below the federal poverty level, twice the rate of their overall representation in the adult population. Of uninsured adults who are aware of the marketplaces or who have tried to enroll for coverage, the majority point to affordability concerns as a reason for not signing up.