While the Affordable Care Act has improved America’s quality and availability of healthcare, California has emerged as a true success story. A recent study, known as the Kaiser Family Foundation California Longitudinal Panel Survey, has found that statewide, the number of uninsured adults has fallen dramatically. Specifically, the findings show that over the last year, there was a 10 percent increase in the number of residents purchasing healthcare coverage during the ACA’s open enrollment periods.
This survey series focused on 2,001 randomly selected, nonelderly Californian adults who were uninsured prior to the ACA’s establishment. The findings had multiple stages:
- Summer 2013 (before the ACA’s initial open enrollment period
- Spring 2014 (after the first open enrollment period concluded
- Spring 2015 (after the second open enrollment period
- The fourth and current stage is ongoing and will include any future findings, as the ACA continues to expand and change
Exploring the study’s impact on California
Focusing on California was an ideal choice for the researchers, as this state is home to many uninsured residents. In fact, before the ACA’s passing, it had almost 6 million non-elderly, uninsured adult residents; this was the nation’s largest population of. But the ACA’s healthcare options were crucial in expanding coverage to its more low- and moderate-income residents.
This was accomplished with the development of Covered California, the state’s Marketplace. But another key factor was the expanded eligibility for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. Now, Californian parents and adults without dependent children earning 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) or less (about $33,465 annually for a family of 4 in 2015) qualify.
As the table above shows, among the 68 percent of “recently insured” Californians, the majority – 34 percent – report having coverage through Medi-Cal. After the first enrollment period, only 25 percent were covered. Other recently insured enrollees are covered through:
- 14 percent are insured through an employer
- 12 percent have a plan through Covered California
- 7 percent have other non-group coverage or insurance through some other source
- About 32 percent are currently uninsured; they’re known as the “remaining uninsured”
Plan access and price are big factors
Overall, the majority of recent Californian enrollees (76 percent) have found their current plan meets their needs and report positive experiences. Specifically, they claim the following:
- 79 percent are satisfied with their plan’s choice of primary care doctors
- 75 percent are satisfied with their plan’s choice of hospitals
- 67 percent are satisfied with their plan’s choice of specialists
The study showed that a major issue for Californians was access to healthcare, especially for the recently injured. This was even an issue for recently insured men and women. According to the findings, 86 percent of recently insured Californians reported that their health needs are currently being met, compared to 51 percent in 2013. In addition, 76 percent now have a usual source of care for when they are sick or need medical advice, compared to 60 percent in 2013.
Another important issue for the recently insured was health care affordability. Among this group, 23 percent of those polled were now much less likely to report problems paying for medical bills in the past 12 months than in the baseline survey; in 2013, this rate was 45 percent. And, 49 percent reported current difficulties in affording healthcare; 86 percent reported difficulties in 2013.