Obamacare Beaten by Employers in Covering the Uninsured

Employer-sponsored coverage has accounted for the bulk of a recent drop in the uninsured population, according to a RAND Corporation study released Tuesday, not Obamacare.

When it comes to the previously uninsured, 7.2 million gained employer-sponsored coverage, 3.6 million gained Medicaid and just 1.4 million signed up through Obamacare exchanges through the survey’s conclusion on March 28.

With employer-based coverage providing most of the bump in coverage, it will be difficult to attribute the gains to the health care law, given the two-year delay of the employer mandate.

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The in-depth survey’s finding was previewed by the Los Angeles Times, which reported last week that just one-third of exchange sign ups were previously uninsured. The full results of the study are now public and through mid-March, 3.9 million people were enrolled in marketplace plans. Just 1.4 million of those did not have prior health coverage.

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The authors collected data through March 28 and acknowledged that the survey didn’t include the surge of so-called enrollments in the final days of the month, which brought the Obama administration’s total to 7.1 million, or the ongoing enrollment that’s available through April 15. But the bulk of the uninsured that highly anticipated purchasing subsidized health insurance on the exchanges would have been more likely to purchase coverage right away. The study did not determine how many enrollees had paid for their health plans.

While the health survey determined that 1.4 million people were newly insured by the Obamacare exchanges , it simultaneously found that 5.2 million people had their health insurance cancelled due to Obamacare and “less than one million” remained uninsured, bringing the net coverage gain for Obamacare’s private plans uncomfortably close.

The study’s net totals found that 14.5 million people gained coverage over the past six months while 5.2 million lost it, for a net gain of 9.3 million people. But the exchange’s came in last place when RAND looked into the reason for the shift. The private insurance market had by far the largest effect, followed by Medicaid.

Fully 7.2 million, or 59 percent of the newly insured, got new coverage through their employer.

Another 30 percent received Medicaid coverage, a welfare program which boosts emergency room visits for non-emergent reasons, such as colds and flus, and which has repeatedly been found not to improve health outcomes. It’s probable that a good chunk of these new Medicaid enrollments are from Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

Obamacare exchanges through March 28 accounted for just 11 percent of the newly insured over the past six months.

The study didn’t examine the last several days of March, when Obamacare exchanges saw consumers select another million plans. Enrollment is still open for another week thanks to an extension.


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