From an editorial in the New York Times on Wednesday:
The number of Americans who lack health insurance declined last year, the first drop since 2007. This is, in large part, the result of the health care reform law and better coverage under public programs like Medicaid. This also shows why repealing the health care law or revamping and shrinking Medicaid would be disastrous moves.
The Census Bureau reported on Wednesday that the number of people without health coverage fell to 48.6 million in 2011, or 15.7 percent of the population, down from 49.9 million, or 16.3 percent of the population, in 2010. Health experts attributed a big chunk of the drop to a provision in the health care reform law that allows children to remain on their parents’ policies until age 26. Some 3 million young adults took advantage of that provision, other surveys show.
The bureau also reported that the percentage of people covered by private insurance stayed flat at 63.9 percent, the first time in a decade it has not fallen. The percentage of Americans covered by government programs, like Medicare, Medicaid, and military plans, increased to 32.2 percent in 2011. That is a testament to the importance of government programs in troubled economic times.
Also a Kaiser Family survey showed that average premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose well below the double-digit increases in the past decade (4 percent for family coverage, 3 percent for individuals). Some experts think the health care reforms, which don’t fully kick in until 2014, are already pushing down health-care costs.
The census data underscore the importance of retaining the health care reforms.