Study: Many Millions Still to Benefit From Obamacare

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A new study says 84 million Americans lacked adequate health insurance for at least part of 2012.

The biggest components of the Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare — take effect next year, including the one requiring people to obtain health insurance or pay a fine.

But the reform law has already “significantly increased health insurance coverage of young adults,” a new study from The Commonwealth Fund says, and can do much more once it’s fully implemented for all working-age adults.

Here’s what the report discovered about the 19-64 age group in 2012:

  • Nearly half of them — about 84 million people — lacked adequate insurance for at least part of the year and risked high out-of-pocket medical costs.
  • 80 million people have had cost-related problems getting necessary care.
  • 75 million had problems paying medical bills or have medical debt.

There has been improvement for one particular group — young adults. An estimated 3.4 million adults under 25 gained insurance between 2010 and 2012, in part because a provision of Obamacare already in effect allows them to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.

Coverage among other adults remained the same or worsened in the last couple years, but that should change as more adults have opportunity to purchase health insurance under Obamacare and the mandate kicks in.

Under the law, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, and subsidies will be available for those who earn too little to afford the full price of coverage.

The study concludes:

It is imperative, therefore, that the federal government and the states work together to fully implement the law’s provisions, including informing the public about the new insurance options and helping people to apply and enroll. … The reform law has provided the tools needed to achieve near-universal coverage over the next decade. It is up to us to ensure they are used effectively.

It’s becoming clear that more public education about the law is needed. According to one survey, 42 percent of Americans don’t even know it exists.

Stacy Johnson

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