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Studies Find Uninsured Grows, Insurance Market Stabilizes as PA Hospitals Urge Lawmakers to Protect Health Coverage

July 12, 2017

A recent Gallup poll shows that the percentage of adults in the country without health insurance grew slightly between the first and second quarters of 2017, from 11.3 percent to 11.7 percent.

This is an increase from the all-time low rate of 10.9 percent as measured by Gallup in 2016.

Just prior to the 2013 implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Gallup had found the uninsured rate to have grown to 18 percent.

Gallup suggests that a variety of factors may be contributing to the uptick in the uninsured, including rising insurance premiums for individuals purchasing coverage who do not qualify for federal subsidies and the impact on costs of insurance in areas where health plans have exited the federal health insurance marketplace. In addition, the uncertainty around the ACA and lack of enforcement of the mandates may be influencing consumer decisions.

The Gallup survey found that there were increases in the number of uninsured across all age groups. However, their survey shows a greater likelihood of increased uninsured by race, with higher percentages of uninsured in African-American and Hispanic populations (an increase of 7.6 and 10.3 percent respectively) and for individuals with lower incomes (9.3 percent increase for individuals earning less than $36,000).

At the same time, the Kaiser Family Foundation has released an issue brief that reflects that the individual insurance market has continued to stabilize with insurers regaining profitability, after experiencing issues with financial performance in 2014 and 2015.

Using financial data that health plans report to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, an analysis commissioned by Kaiser found:

  • Insurer financial performance as measured by medical loss ratios worsened in the early years of the ACA and began to improve in 2016
  • Individual market insurers on average are on a path toward regaining profitability in 2017 as they have worked in setting premiums and adjusting to the ACA regulatory requirements
  • On average, premiums per enrollee in the individual market grew 20 percent between the first quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017, while per enrollee claims only grew by 5 percent
  • The analysis of claims and utilization of hospital care for the individual insurance market shows that they have remained fairly stable over the last two years
  • The utilization of hospital care is still higher on average than existed in the pre-ACA individual insurance market, reflecting the ability of individuals with pre-existing conditions to access health insurance coverage under the ACA

The Kaiser issue brief notes that in some sections of the country the individual insurance market remains “fragile,” and that uncertainty about the ACA may cause further destabilization of the market.

HAP and the Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems continue to promote health insurance coverage for all Pennsylvanians. To date, the ACA has supported more than 1.1 million Pennsylvanians in securing health insurance coverage, providing better access to high quality health care services, and dramatically reducing the uninsured population of Pennsylvania. HAP continues to provide resources on the effects of the ACA in Pennsylvania on its website.

As the U.S. Senate considers legislation to repeal and replace the ACA, HAP is encouraging members of Pennsylvania’s hospital community to speak out and email Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Robert Casey to urge the Senate to protect health coverage for all Pennsylvanians.

For additional information, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP's vice president, federal legislative advocacy.

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