It’s rare that multiple surveys tell the same story. But several recent surveys have come to the same conclusion: The number of uninsured individuals in the United States has declined dramatically in just two years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month reported that 15.8 million fewer people were uninsured during the first three months of 2015 compared with 2013 numbers. According to the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey, the proportion of U.S. residents who were uninsured when interviewed fell to 9.2 percent. That’s backed by a recent analysis by Gallup, which found that the proportion of U.S. adults without health insurance declined about 5.6 percent since 2013, to 11.7 percent. According to that survey, the uninsured rate fell across the country, but declined by more in states that expanded Medicaid to low-income adults and set up a state or state-federal partnership health insurance marketplace.
Another survey found that assistance professionals played a big role in connecting consumers to coverage. According to a report released last month from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 4,600 programs offering navigators, certified application counselors and other assisters helped an estimated 5.9 million consumers during open enrollment in the 2015 health insurance marketplace.
Most consumers who sought help were uninsured and had limited understanding of health insurance, survey respondents said. About two-thirds of programs reported that it took an average of one to two hours to help each consumer who was applying to the marketplace for the first time. Of the 2015 assister programs, six in 10 were certified application counselors, 25 percent were federally qualified health centers and 14 percent were navigators. Hospitals and their employees also played a big role in these efforts.
Few things are more fundamental than our health, and studies repeatedly have shown that health coverage is associated with better health. Connecting people with coverage is one way hospitals can help to improve the overall health of individuals and their communities.
With the open enrollment period for the 2016 marketplace beginning Nov. 1, it is crucial for all community stakeholders, including hospitals, to continue to reach out to consumers and make the enrollment process easy and widely available. You can get the latest information, download resources and find examples of how hospitals are helping their communities access coverage at www.aha.org/getenrolled.
Fred Gattas Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org), is COG chair and a trustee of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.