Obamacare: 72 percent of previously uninsured Californians now have health plans
OREANDA-NEWS. August 19, 2016. Nearly three-quarters of California's previously uninsured adults have gained health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act -- and most of them, like last year, say their health care needs are being met, according to the latest survey of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
But the encouraging numbers may be difficult to improve on going forward, experts say, without another major policy shift, because the insurance holdouts don't appear willing or able to budge.
The new data, which shows 72 percent of previously uninsured Californians now have health insurance -- up from 68 percent in the same study last year -- indicates that the Golden State's number of insured residents is stabilizing.
"Unless something really significant changes, it seems reasonable to expect that a few more people every year will get coverage," said Bianca DiJulio, one of the survey's authors,of the incremental rise in the numbers of insured from 2014.
Likewise, a joint report from UC Berkeley and UCLA this month projects that 3 million Californians will be uninsured in 2017 -- about half the number from before the Affordable Care Act enrollment debuted in 2014.
"It shows what the ACA has done is really improve access to health care," said Miranda Dietz, a policy analyst at the UC Berkeley Labor Center said of the Kaiser report.
Since its debut in the fall of 2013, Covered California has enrolled 1.4 million Californians, while Medi-Cal has enrolled almost 5 million since January 2014.
From here on, experts say, any significant enrollment gains are likely to come about as a result of changes to federal or state health care policies, including attempts by California legislators to allow undocumented residents to join Medi-Cal, which is now prohibited.
The survey released Wednesday by the Menlo Park-based group revealed that the share of health insurance coverage is even higher, at 78 percent, among those likely eligible for private insurance purchased through Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, and for Medi-Cal, the state's program for the low-income and disabled that was great expanded under the health care law.
In spite of the gains in coverage, the survey finds slightly more than a quarter, or 27 percent, of previously uninsured Californians are still without coverage. This includes 10 percent who are likely undocumented immigrants and ineligible for Medi-Cal or Covered California, leaving 17 percent who could potentially be helped by the law's coverage expansions.
When asked to say in their own words the main reason why they do not currently have health insurance, nearly half of the uninsured say it is because health insurance is too expensive and they can't afford it.
Just 2 percent cite opposition to the health care law as their main reason they don't have coverage.
The foundation's survey is the fourth and final of a series it began in 2013 that aims to track how the health care law, commonly called "Obamacare," has affected the lives of the previously uninsured.
While California leaders embraced Obamacare and its expansion of Medi-Cal, there have been complaints lodged against each. In the Covered California plans, many of the issues have revolved around narrow networks of doctors and hospitals. In Medi-Cal, access to Medi-Cal doctors -- which has been a chronic issue -- worsened with the expanded number of enrollees.
Marin County resident Cerridwen Fallingstar said her Kaiser Permanente health plan is not perfect, but until the country adopts a single-payer health plan that mimics Medicare, it will have to do.
Still, she said it's been troublesome for Kaiser to locate a specialist to diagnose what she believes is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
"This is how insurance works -- it doesn't matter what plan you're on," she said.
The survey, conducted from Feb. 10 to June 20, included 1,001 adults. The margin or error is plus or minus 5 percentage points for the survey of recently insured Californians.
Steven Cuadros, 59, of Pleasanton, said even though he now has insurance as a lab technician through his employer, he depended on Obamacare for the years he was unemployed and could not afford health care.
"A lot of people criticize it, because they just don't like Obama," said Cuadros. "If it doesn't work for you, I'm sorry. But it worked for me."