First on CNN: A record 35 million-plus Americans have Affordable Care Act coverage — but the gains may not last long
This includes an estimated 13.6 million people enrolled in policies purchased on the Obamacare exchanges and more than 21 million people in Medicaid expansion coverage, including 16.8 million who were not eligible prior to the landmark health reform law.
Meanwhile, the uninsured rate fell to 8.8% in the fourth quarter of last year, down from 10.3% in the same period of 2020, according to new federal National Health Interview Survey data. That represents about 4.9 million people obtaining coverage.
“With a record-breaking total of over 35 million people who now have health coverage, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, America’s uninsured rate is nearing an all-time low,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
Also, the enhanced federal subsidies for Obamacare policies, which have drawn more Americans to the exchanges, are set to expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts.
Even before President Joe Biden took office in 2021, more Americans were signing up for Affordable Care Act coverage as the Covid-19 pandemic put an increased emphasis on access to health care.
In addition, Medicaid enrollment has swelled over the past two years in large part because states have not been allowed to remove anyone involuntarily from coverage during the pandemic in exchange for a more generous federal Medicaid match, under a coronavirus relief package Congress passed in 2020.
Gains at risk
The historic increase in Affordable Care Act and Medicaid coverage may be short lived, however.
Also, up to 14.4 million people could lose Medicaid coverage if the public health emergency expires after the second quarter of this year, according to the Urban Institute.
The public health emergency currently runs through mid-July. The Biden administration has said it will give states 60 days’ notice of the emergency’s end so they can ramp up their preparations to review residents’ Medicaid eligibility.