In 2009, as the United States Congress began to shape the legislation that became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), 14.5 percent of women and girls lacked health insurance. Women between the ages of 18 and 64 were even more likely to be uninsured, with more than 19 percent of these working-age women going without health coverage. And women of color fared even worse – for example, 38 percent of working-age Latinas were uninsured.
But what a difference five years can make! Or more specifically, what a difference the passage and implementation of landmark legislation can make.
Today the Census Bureau released its annual survey on health insurance in the United States. This data looks at Americans’ health insurance status in 2014, the first full year of ACA implementation. And the uninsurance rates have plummeted. Thanks to survey-expert-mumbo-jumbo, the figures aren’t completely comparable, but we know that uninsurance among working-age women is now just less than 13 percent. More than 90 percent of American women and girls have health insurance, and women of color have gained coverage faster than white women – although they are still more likely to be uninsured.
What we really know from these figures – and with more calculations to come – is that the ACA is working. For example, women are enrolling in direct-purchase coverage, which includes coverage through the health insurance Marketplaces. Total female enrollment in this type of health insurance grew 27 percent between 2013 and 2014. Most of this growth came from the women who used to bear the full brunt of the individual health insurance market’s dysfunction – women between the ages of 25 and 44, who couldn’t purchase maternity coverage as part of an individual health insurance policy, and women between the ages of 45 and 64, many of whom couldn’t purchase coverage at all if they had a pre-existing condition.
We also know that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion is working. In part, we know this because 3.3 million more women held Medicaid coverage in 2014 compared to 2013. And in part, we know this from this cool graphic, which shows the difference in uninsurance rates between states that implemented the Medicaid expansion in 2014 and those that did not.
Perhaps most importantly, we know the ACA is working from the stories of women around the country who now have the coverage they need to access life-saving health care services, or to take charge of their health through the preventive care and counseling the ACA requires. But it’s always nice when the data confirms what we know in our hearts.